Visitors to Tilligerry Habitat has skyrocketed in past 12 months

WORKING TOGETHER: The Tilligerry Habitat management committee, from left: Ian Rabbitt, Ray Evans (treasurer), Anne Horrey, Jane Twohill, Dorothea Willey (president), Ross Hampton (vice president) and Andrew Gilchrist (secretary). Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
WORKING TOGETHER: The Tilligerry Habitat management committee, from left: Ian Rabbitt, Ray Evans (treasurer), Anne Horrey, Jane Twohill, Dorothea Willey (president), Ross Hampton (vice president) and Andrew Gilchrist (secretary). Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Visitation to and engagement with Tilligerry Habitat has skyrocketed thanks to a number of initiatives implemented by the management committee which it plans to build on.

Tilligerry Habitat president Dorothea Willey said it was estimated that in the past 12 months international visitation to the Tanilba Bay-based bushland reserve increased by 50 per cent .

The habitat’s volunteer committee also saw a 15 to 20 per cent increase in the number of Australian visitors.

“It’s wonderful to see more people realise we’re here and enjoying what we have to offer,” Ms Willey said.

“We’ve had a high proportion of international visitors who have come here simply to see koalas in the wild. They don’t want to see them in parks and zoos anymore. They want to see them walking around in theri natural environment which is what we have here.”

One of the committee’s plans to entice more people to visit the habitat, especially Tilligery residents, was to host a regular community event.

Tilligerry Habitat president Dorothea Willey. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Tilligerry Habitat president Dorothea Willey. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Six months ago the verandah cafe was born. It is open to all to attend on the fourth Sunday of the month.

Fifteen people turned out to first verandah cafe. In July the cafe attracted its highest number of attendees – 85.

“The verandah cafe was a long held dream of a volunteer,” Ms Willey said. “They always said it would be a wonderful idea to draw the community together at the habitat. Once we came up with the verandah cafe the committee approved it. It’s been a wonderful success.”

Another plan to increase its engagement with the community was for the habitat to reach out to schools. At least one Port Stephens school will visit the habitat per month.

In March, 160 children from Tanilba Bay Public School visited the habitat to learn more about its native residents – koalas. Habitat volunteers manned information stations about koalas and the native flora, which children moved around.

Tetratheca thymifolia, commonly known as black-eyed Susan or thyme pink-bells, is native to the Tilligerry Peninsula and has been planted at the habitat.

Tetratheca thymifolia, commonly known as black-eyed Susan or thyme pink-bells, is native to the Tilligerry Peninsula and has been planted at the habitat.

More than 450 people took part in a mystery bus tour to the habitat before Christmas in 2017.

The habitat signed up to be one of the Port locations for the tour which saw busloads of people descend on the reserve throughout one day. Again, volunteers manned information station for visitors to move around.

Ms Willey said the habitat would continue being part of such tours as it brought in visitors from the Hunter region who would likely visit again once discovering the location.

A new project the habitat is working on is bush regeneration to the entrance of the information centre.

The three-year Bush to the Door project, being overseen by volunteer Allison Webb, is aimed at showcasing the plants native to the Tilligerry Peninsula.

Bush to the Door project leader and Tilligerry Habitat volunteer Allison Webb. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Bush to the Door project leader and Tilligerry Habitat volunteer Allison Webb. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

“We started collecting seeds and cuttings from local plants and propagating them in the nursery for this project six months ago,” Ms Webb said.

“We’re planting species native to the peninsula in gardens beds up to the front entrance.

“Visitors will be able to see the plants unique to the peninsula but for residents they can see what will work in their own backyards and will be able to buy seedling and cuttings that we propagate in the nursery.”

In the past 12 months the habitat has also strengthened its ties with Port Stephens Koalas, agreeing to supply the rescue and care organisation with 3000 food trees in the next three to five years for the koala hospital.

The habitat is also part of a development biodiversity offset. It will supply plants to the developer of a housing estate in Mallabula to offset the loss of cleared vegetation. Among the plants supplied is 97 koala food trees.

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