Jenny has bear essentials

MURWILLUMBAH'S Jenny Hayes has always loved animals.

Her latest project, Team Koala, comes as little surprise to her family.

In fact, sister Lisa has joined Jenny in helping koalas.

Jenny, a fifth generation Tweed Valley girl, started a campaign to save our dwindling koala population - to make koalas a tourist attraction rather than victims of development.

And although Team Koala has been going only six months, it all started some time ago.

“As a little girl I used to see koalas all over the valley,” Jenny said.

“Driving over the Burringbar Range, I used to play a game of spot the koala.

“But then I realised with their habitat decreasing, the numbers are really dwindling and koalas are at risk.

“So I spoke to Lisa, who is very capable and has amazing communication skills, and we started Team Koala.”

This is not the first time Lisa has come to the aid of her animal-loving older sister.

“We were watching Lassie on television, I was 10 and she is four years younger,” Jenny said.

“Lassie was in danger and I was sobbing.

“Lisa got right in front of the TV and spread her arms out and said 'it's okay, he won't die'.”

Jenny's passion for animals has taken her to some amazing places.

She was studying at the University of Queensland to be a school teacher but the call of the wild was too much.

“I went teaching and I enjoyed it, but I knew my calling was to save animals.

“When I was chosen by Earth Watch to work in Africa, I jumped at it.”

Jenny worked with elephants and rhinos in South Africa, hippos in Ghana and gorillas in Uganda.

Her scariest moment? Scampering up a tree to escape a rhino.

“How I got up that tree, I've never understood,” she laughed.

Her best African moment was seeing mountain gorillas in the wild.

Back on the Tweed, with the help of hardworking volunteers, Jenny was involved in establishing Friends of the Pound.

What's next? She doesn't know, but there will always be animals to save.

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