In Focus – Koala

Status: Least Concern

Geographic Region:  Eastern states of Australia

Meaning of Name:  Comes from the aboriginal name gula meaning no drink.

Habitat:  Eucalyptus woodlands of Australia

Threats:  Land development and disease

Left in Wild:  60,000 to 80,000

 

Koala at Alma Park Zoo

 

There is a common misconception that the koala is a type of bear due to their bearlike appearance, however they are actually a herbivorous marsupial with the wombat being its   closest relative. Eucalyptus leaves are the koala’s main diet but provide little energy intake, resulting in koalas sleeping for up to 20 hours a day. Koalas rarely drink water as they get most of the water intake from the eucalyptus leaves. They have however been known to search out water during prolonged hot periods, even venturing onto verandas and into back yards in search of a drink.The picture below shows a firefighter giving a Koala a drink after a devastating bush-fire destroyed its habitat.

Koalas can live for up to 14 years in the wild however male Koalas will rarely live that long due to their more destructive nature. The longest living koala lived for 23 years at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Koalas are asocial animals preferring to be on their own than socialising in groups. Male Koalas are very territorial animals and have been known to be aggressive towards humans who venture into their space. Males are significantly larger than females and will have territorial battles with other males. Size however does not have any bearing on who a female mates with as they are more attracted to males that can make a more impressive grunting noise.The more impressive the grunt the more manly the koala, so to speak. Size and colour tone does vary between koalas dependent on geographical locations as well. A Koala in the state of Victoria in southern Australia will be significantly larger with darker fur than Koalas found in the northern state of Queensland.

Koala at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Land development has played a large part in the destruction of the koala’s habitat across Australia and disease such as Chlamydia has ravaged some populations across the country. The Koala was hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s for its pelts, but populations have been slowly recovering in some states. Unfortunately a cull of over a million individuals in Queensland in the 1920s halted the recovery of that population and it has struggled to have any meaningful recovery since. This has made the Queensland  koala more susceptible to drought, disease and environment destruction. In 2012 the Australian Government declared the Koala populations in both Queensland and New South Wales vulnerable, which is probably a gross understatement of its true status. Today it is very rare to see a Koala in the wild in Queensland.

Donation box at Alma Park zoo
Stu’s Zoo Pick for the Koala

Many wildlife sanctuaries and zoos in Australia have great koala enclosures. Here is a list of zoos that I have reviewed where you can see and even hold a koala.They are: Perth Zoo, Taronga Zoo, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the largest Koala sanctuary in the world.

Koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Daisy Hill Koala Centre, located south of Brisbane in the Daisy Hill Conservation Park, is also a great place to see and learn about the koala.You can view it’s resident koalas as well as see interactive displays and information on the conservation efforts being employed to help save the Queensland koala.  The centre is run by the Queensland Government and is free of charge. The woodlands around the centre are a great place to have a picnic and observe  wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies and birds.

Stu’s Wild Encounter

The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia has been my best experience for seeing Koalas in the wild. You will find plenty of viewing  opportunities along the road hugging the Great Otway National Park.

 

 

  
©Stuatthezoo.com

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