- Advertisement -
By G intern, Megan Lyons
As a Canadian, koalas have been on my radar since the late 1990s, after my mum returned from a work trip in Australia back to my lovely, but marsupial-free home country. I was given a toy koala, which quickly replaced my child emotions of missing my mum with a pure fascination on these fuzzy-eared creatures. Bounce back to a dozen years past the millennium; and I’m within arm’s reach of a real live female koala.
I recently took part in the Koala Breakfast – a morning put on the by Wild Life Sydney so tourists and Aussies alike can learn about this continent’s iconic creatures. I looked forward to learning all about koala populations and pinpointing exactly what the ongoing concern for koalas is all about. After all – Australia is the only place in the world you’ll find them, dotting the continent with the vast majority spread through the coastal side of the mountain ranges down through Victoria.
Our lovely guide Cat manoeuvred the flock of us through the museum while we ooo’d and ahh’d, informing us about all of the animals we encountered – including a newsworthy reptile who has yet to have a girlfriend because he’s killed his last two – until we reached our final destination: a delicious hearty meal set only metres away from our grey, furry company. I must say, for nocturnal creatures, those girls were quite excited and stayed relatively lively while we mowed down our morning feast.
I quickly learned koalas have very low energy levels, sleeping for nearly 20 hours a day. They only munch on veg, with their leaves of choice being those from eucalyptus or gum trees. I can't believe it’s actually the only thing they eat, even getting their fluid intake from the leaves. Australia’s rich with hundreds of types of eucalyptuses, yet koalas Australia-wide only feast on about 120 types, limiting their available habitat.
Koalas are arboreal creatures, which I found out means they live in trees, so losing trees mean life or death for them – they eat, sleep and live in those trees! According to the Australia Koala Foundation, eucalypt forests are the koalas home and “some of the most valuable carbon sinks in the world,” and are quickly being cleared out. Since 1788, nearly 65 per cent of koala forests no longer exist over a whopping 116 million hectares of land. The left over 35 per cent (41 million hectares of fit land for koalas) is at risk for being cleared for farming, urban development, and unsustainable forestry.
Wild Life Sydney emphasised koalas have already suffered a severe decline in population due to forests being bulldozed by humans, sharing the information in an educational, kid-friendly and very revealing presentation. Koalas fortunately are protected by law now after Europeans hunted millions down for their fur in the beginning of the 19th century, but their food and habitat are not shielded nationally under federal government law. On Monday, a decision was made to add them to the threatened species list, however only the Queensland and NSW populations were listed, leaving out the South Australian and Victorian koalas.
I encourage everyone, tourists and Aussies alike, to take a morning out to sit down with the koalas and really learn about their lives. It’s captivating and enlightening – and hey, you can even get a snapshot with one of the furry, two-thumbed animals for a keepsake. Not too many people have that opportunity!
Megan wrote this article as part of her two-week internship with G magazine. If you'd like to see how the G office works and try your hand at writing for us, check out our intern page here.