I think they’re cute and all, but I can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about regarding these iconic Australian marsupials.
The famous koala is an arboreal marsupial native to Australia, and is a close relative of the wombat. The koala is found in coastal areas of the mainland’s eastern and southern regions, inhabiting Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It is easily recognisable by its cute fluffy ears and spoon-shaped nose. The koala’s colour ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown. I have seen wild koalas on parts of the Great Ocean Road from Sydney to Melbourne, although never in the wild around Sydney itself. They were pretty cool to look at, admittedly, but I don’t understand why so many people actually stop their cars or get off the coach to take some photos of these wild koalas beside the road (or beside the ocean). Surely once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all? All they do is sleep.
Koalas typically inhabit open eucalyptus woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. Because this eucalyptus diet has limited nutritional benefit, koalas are extremely lazy and sleep for up to 20 hours a day. They are asocial animals, and bonding exists only between mothers and dependent offspring. Adult males communicate with loud bellows that intimidate rivals and attract mates. I guess this would be one of the best times to observe these overrated marsupials, rather than when they’re just hanging in a tree.
Being marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young that crawl into their mothers’ pouches, where they stay for the first six to seven months of their life. These young koalas are known as “joeys”, and are fully weaned in less than a year. Koalas have few natural predators but are threatened by bushfires and droughts. Interestingly, though, once upon a time koalas were hunted by indigenous Australians and depicted in myths and cave art for millennia.
Sure, the koalas are known as the national animal of Australia (well, along with the kangaroo), but how often have you actually heard an Australian citizen praise the koala? Many people there see them a nuisance and feel that they get way too much protection. Some might say that there is such a thing as “being too cute”…
‘Roos are so much more interesting!