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Students plant an island of trees

by Katrina Kalleske

UniSA students were major contributors to the Kangaroo Island tree planting festival.More than 130 UniSA students visited Kangaroo Island last month (July) for the island’s annual tree planting festival, helping to plant 91,000 seedlings.

This is the third year UniLife has organised for students to visit Kangaroo Island for the festival. UniLife’s involvement in the festival began in 2008 when UniLife offered to plant a tree for each student who opted into its free membership.

Looking for suitable places for students to plant trees, UniLife General Manager Keith Rudkin heard about the land revegetation project on Kangaroo Island.

This year UniLife organised four buses to take students to the island for the festival – three single-day trip buses and one three-day bus trip that included a tour of the island for the students.

Nearly 450 people from Kangaroo Island and Adelaide participated in the three-day festival, organised by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and exceeded planting expectations by more than 10,000 seedlings.

Rudkin said each year there is strong interest from students to go on the Kangaroo Island trip. In particular, he said, there are high numbers of international students who look forward to the opportunity to see more of South Australia.

“It is a great chance for students to get out of the city and at the end of the day, they love the trip and getting their hands dirty,” Rudkin said.

“Our students make up a large proportion of the workforce during the festival.”

Thanks to this year’s tree planting festival, 7000 Drooping Sheoaks were planted as food trees for the Glossy Black Cockatoo. This is the largest planting ever undertaken in support of this endangered cockatoo species. The re-vegetation records a high survival rate of up to 90 per cent for the seedlings.

Threatened Plant Project Officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dave Taylor, said it was an extremely positive event.

“This year’s planting festival demonstrated that despite the fact there is so much negative news about the environment, a relatively small number of people can make a difference on a scale that really counts,” Taylor said.

“It provides real hope that we can prevent the loss of the huge number of plant and animal species that are declining due to a lack of habitat in South Australia.”

The Kangaroo Island Planting Festival is part of a unique habitat restoration project, under the KI Nationally Threatened Plant Project. The restoration efforts focus on restoring habitat for a number of threatened species. The Department aims to re-instate habitat, which involves planting out very high numbers (close to 100,000 this year) and includes more than 100 species. Most of the plantings happen through the annual three-day Planting Festival.

“It is probably the largest restoration project for threatened plants in South Australia.”

The Department said the contribution from UniSA students is vital, with about one-third of the volunteer workforce each year since 2008 made up by them.

Rudkin and his UniLife team are now focusing on another adventure that is open to students – a three week trip to Vietnam. The first week will see the students teaching English and living with local families in a community about two hours from Saigon, followed by a two-week tour around Vietnam.

The UniLife Learning without Borders trip to Vietnam will take place late in November, after exams. For more information visit the UniLife store website.