I must admit that I’m a bit biased here in choosing this animal. When I was about 8 or 9 I received a Koala teddy bear named Cocoa and ever since then, Koala’s have had a soft spot in my heart. The Koalas are the only living members of the Phascolarctidae family. Phascolarctidae translates as pouch-bear and is sometimes why the Koala is called the Koala bear despite it not being related to bears. It’s closest living relative is the wombat. Living on the continent of Australia means that the Koala is a marsupial. For more information on marsupials, you may be interested in my Bandicoot post.
The Koala is about the size of a 3 year old child and can weigh up to 9kg. It is a herbivore that feeds primarily on eucalyptus leaves and so are found in eucalypt woodlands.This diet does however pose a problem. The eucalyptus leaves are not high in nutritional content and therefore give the Koalas little energy. This is why the Koala bear sleeps for up to 20 hours a day! Being a furry, sedentary animal meant that the Koala was an ideal animal to hunt for fur. In the 20th Century many people hunted the Koalas for their fur and their numbers rapidly declined. This, coupled with the culling and deforestation, led the Koala bear to becoming endangered. Since then a huge public movement has protected the animal and conservation parks have been set up in order to restore the Koala population in Australia.
The first living Koala bear reached England in 1881. It was purchased by the Zoological society of London for study. Unfortunately, the shortly died after being trapped in its washstand from a falling lid. Despite its tragic demise, the female koala did offer an excellent educational opportunity. The female was quickly dissected and from this, scientists were able to determine the way it reproduced and some of the functions of its liver and kidneys. This was a large step forward in understanding the Koala because previously they relied on only information derived from the outside.
The Koala is a cultural symbol of Australia. It has been featured across adverts, games and tv-shows in Australia and Worldwide. 75% of tourists coming to Australia to see animals put the Koala as the #1 animal to see. The aboriginal Tharawal people believed that the animal helped row the boat that brought them to the continent. Another myth tells of how a tribe killed a koala and used its long intestines to create a bridge for people from other parts of the world. The Koalas were highly revered and were incredibly important for some aboriginal tribes as a source of food. The Koalas are seen as indicative of Australia and its culture and I hope that this continues so that the Koala may always have a home.