After visiting the Koala Sanctuary at Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia with this thought: Why is it difficult to find koalas in their natural habitat, these days? I endeavored to learn more about our friend the koala.
The Australian Aboriginal people looked upon the Koala as their friend, and they never killed koalas for food. The word koala is an Australian Aboriginal word that means without water.
The koala lives in eucalyptus trees, eating the gum leaves, resting, and sleeping in the branches. They need more sleep than most animals (approximately 22 hours per day) because Eucalyptus leaves contain toxins and are low in nutrition and high in fibrous matter, so it takes such a large amount of energy to digest.
There are two types of koalas in Australia — the southern koala (is brown in color) and the northern koala (is gray in color). They both have distinctive features, such as soft, thick fur; fluffy round ears, a black leathery oval nose, and black padded paws with sharp claws that naturally grip the trees, holding them up high in the tree tops.
The koala may look teddy-bear like, but you should not cuddle a wild koala like a teddy, as they become stressed and will usually try to defend themselves.
Since European settlement, 80 percent of the koala’s habitat in Australia has been lost. Koalas were also once killed for their fur, which took them close to the edge of extinction. The koala became a protected species, but unfortunately, their habitats are not always protected.
Land clearing for new roads, housing development, and farming are all threats to the dwindling koala population.
One koala can live in an area of 1 km x 1000-400 m, (43 hectares) or smaller. Koalas live in groups with each koala having its own home range. At night, the koala will walk around its area. Each koala knows if an area is already occupied by the scent left on the tree by another koala.
Koalas do not wander from their territory unless it’s been disrupted. A male will search outside his area for a female koala when it’s mating season. When a koala is mature, it will leave its mother to find a new group and an area for itself to live.
Koalas need a large area of Australian bushland, with eucalyptus trees growing in good soil to survive. Koalas live today from the top of Australia; in Queensland along the coast, New South Wales in the Blue Mountains, in regions of Western and Eastern Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Koalas were once plentiful in eucalyptus forests that had fertile soil, but sadly, the Australian government has recently loosened the laws for more industrial development in the koala’s habitat.
Yes, it would be nice to have a koala living in your back yard, but this situation is stressful to the koala. Numerous koalas have died from bushfires, stress, diseases, dog and cat attacks, being hit by cars, or falling into swimming pools after losing their natural habitat and homes.
In some areas of Australia, you can see many koalas. This can mislead you into thinking there is an ample koala population, in one area. In fact, in an area where you may see many koalas, there is most likely not enough trees for all the koalas or not enough of the correct species of eucalypts. Forcing koalas to venture out to find more eucalyptus trees.
Moving somewhere else can stress the koala, causing it to behave oddly or be disorientated. The koala is under stress without a home causing it to be more susceptible to disease. With more production and building developments in koala habitat areas, the numbers of koalas will continue to drop and may lead to extinction if nothing is done to help the koala.
You can see koalas in the zoo or at a koala sanctuary, because it is rare to see one in its natural habitat. If you see a koala in the Australian bushland, be considerate and treasure the moment. If you hear a deep odd bellowing sound while camping in the Australian bushland, don’t be afraid because it’s only a koala!
If you are interested in helping preserve these beautiful native Australian animals, you can join the Koala Army on the Koala Foundation in Australia website.