How much can a Koala take?

Many Koala sadly died or were injured due to recent fires in Australia (that are now under control). #AnimaltalkNews has included a wonderful profile on the species for you to enjoy.

Is this adorable koala really getting his nails done? CNN’s Jeanne Moos reports why it’s actually more cure than manicure. For more information click here.

Text: Sophia Walter

Australia is home to many unusual animals but the cutest and most well loved is the koala. September is Save the Koala Month, so read about our furry friends from Down Under, and ways you can help to protect them.

Everyone loves Australia’s koalas, but did you know their numbers are dwindling fast? The US Government lists them as threatened, the Australian Government refuses. They’re on the brink of extinction in parts of Australia, yet they are easy to spot on some islands. So what is the story? Are koalas endangered or not?

The status of koala populations is confusing, but the fact is koalas are in serious trouble.

Islands of refuge

The reason for confusion is the dense population of koalas in isolated areas like Kangaroo Island. In the early 20th century, white settlers hunted koalas nearly to extinction for their fur. At least three million skins were sold until, faced with public outrage, governments declared them a ‘Protected Species’ in the late 1930s. Koala numbers were so seriously depleted that they still haven’t recovered.

During this time, a few koalas were taken to islands where it was thought they might be protected. But koalas did not live on islands before white settlers, and this well-meaning strategy led to overpopulation and genetic weakness. Sadly, even though these islands still have lots of koalas, their chances of lasting in the long term are very poor.

The government has tried moving koalas from the islands back to their natural range but without much success. On the mainland, as habitat becomes increasingly fragmented and populations become more isolated, genetic variation diminishes further. This spells disaster for the survival of koalas.

Habitat loss is now the leading cause of the steep decline in koala numbers and the Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are fewer than 100 000 koalas left in the wild. To find out ways you can help, visitwww.savethekoala.com.

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5 Koala Facts

* Koalas are not but marsupials. That means that young are born immature and develop further in the safety of their mother’s pouch. Their correct name is simply ‘koalas’ not ‘koala s’.

* Eucalyptus trees are a koala’s whole life. They eat the leaves, sleep, fight and mate in them!

* Koalas are very lazy and sleep up to 20 hours a day. Sleeping is the best way to conserve energy which koalas need to do because eucalyptus leaves are not very nutritious and require a lot of energy to digest.

* Koalas have two ‘thumbs’. This helps them to hold firmly onto the branches and to grip their food.

* Koalas normally don’t drink. Unless it is very dry due to drought, they get enough moisture from the leaves they eat.

Bella, the orphaned Joey

The life of an orphaned koala shows us how similar these beautiful animals are to humans. Bella, the tiny orphaned baby koala clings to her new favourite teddy . She has lost her mother to one of the leading threats to koalas, a speeding car.

A tiny 250g joey, Bella was carefully pulled from her mother’s pouch and placed in a sheepskin blanket with a heat pad and nursed until she reached a healthy 1.25kg. Her mother had died shortly after the pair arrived at a wildlife hospital, and she was then fostered by a carer.

As she grew older, Bella shared a close relationship with her carer. Just like humans, it is important for a koala’s development that a bond forms with his mother so that it can learn quickly about how to survive. Living on a branch in her carer’s lounge room with a teddy and a nearby pouch to tuck into can only last so long though, and Bella was soon released back into the wild.

The Australian Koala Foundation maps koala habitat, meaning Bella can be returned to safe bush land that will hopefully remain free of human threats. Her foster parents are careful to find the right location because, just like humans, koalas are very sensitive to their surroundings. They live in societies with overlapping territories and social hierarchies, and an upset to the balance can cause great stress and even disease to the population.

Koalas have a ‘home range’ in which they have specific trees for sleeping or socializing. These trees may overlap with others, and it has been reported that they even have ‘bedroom, ‘lounge room’ and ‘family room’ trees.

Bella was returned to a habitat with a very dominant male and female figure, along with a few other interesting characters in the home range. The adult female koalas show their maternal instinct with Bella, and Marie, the stronger female in the area, is careful to look out for her. As if she was a child lost in a shopping mall, Marie kindly gives Bella direction.

Bella integrated so well into her new community that she now has a joey of her own. She is loved and missed by her foster family, but now she is home again.

For more information on how you can help the koalas click here.

Koala baby facts:

  • Baby koalas are known as ‘joeys’
  • When koalas are born, they only weigh one gram and look like pink jellybeans
  • At birth, joeys have no fur, no ears and their eyes are still closed
  • As soon as they are born, joeys make a wild and wooly journey from the birth canal to the safety of their mother’s pouch. They rely on their sense of smell and an innate sense of direction to find their way
  • Joeys suckle on their mother’s milk when they are in the pouch, then eat a special excretion of partly digested leaves called ‘pap’ to get their digestive system ready for eucalyptus leaves
  • Koala mothers have a very close relationship with their babies. They stay together for as long as two years. Koala mothers communicate by cooing softly like a lullaby or grunting to chastise. Joeys ride on their mum’s back and cuddle into their front

 

 

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