Saturday, 11 October 2014

diet and behaviour of koalas...

Published: June 3 2007 on Helium

Koalas are those lovely grey, fluffy "non bears" that most tourists to Australia must see up close. They are marsupials, closely related to the wombat, and are native to Australia, mostly in south eastern Queensland. There are scattered small colonies in central Queensland and down the eastern seaboard of Australia. In areas like the south of Sydney, colonies are under threat of new estate developments. Many local lobby groups attempt to protect these animals and even try to tempt them to new, less threatened habitats. Major zoos around the world have an example of koalas in the zoo community.

These adorable animals may look fascinating and cute, but to expect equally intriguing information on their diet and behaviour may mean disappointment. There are about 600 species of eucalypts in Australia. The koala selects but a few. And the diet of a koala is totally based on the consumption of eucalypt leaves. Even water is absorbed from the leaves. They rarely drink water. In short, their diet looks bland and poor, and it is.

A poor diet usually means low energy levels. Yes! The koala is a master of leisure. Inactive, sleeping leisure! With rump jammed in the fork of a tree for balance and armchair comfort, the koala sleeps 16 to 18 hours a day. Activity is usually reserved for the sunset hours and that activity means munching on leaves. Considering this must be about the time allotted for more intimate activities as well, the koala seems to have a rather plain old existence.

To try to extend further comment on koala behaviour, the traditional view of koalas is that they live alone or in small groups. But the small group label is a bit misleading. They hardly socialize or interact or help each other. It is more just a small group of existence, perhaps based on sharing the favoured, perhaps rare type of eucalypt leaves in a particular area. Having said that, koalas are territorial because they scratch and scent mark trees. This would be a warning to other koalas to stay away, yet no one has recorded koalas actually fighting over territory.
Perhaps they just don't have the energy anyways.

Young koalas are born into their mother's pouch and are usually about an inch long. They are in the pouch for 6 months and then are carried on their mother's back for another 6 months.
I guess baby learns from a young age to feel the joys of doing nothing.

But occasionally, there are the odd stories that seem to break traditions. I live on a mountain, by the sea, down south of Victoria (where there are supposed to be hardly any koalas in the wild!) While driving home, at sunset, up the mountain, just a few weeks ago, I saw a small group of people pointing cameras at a rather leafless, small tree near the look-out. And, in the tree, calmly "posing", was a rather beefy koala. Everyone took care not to frighten it. But the koala seemed calm anyways, just watching us watching him. And then, after a few good camera shots of his best profile, he calmly ambled down the tree and wandered down the mountain with a "proud, rock and roll" gait.

Koalas might symbolize Australia, yet, perhaps there may still be quite a great deal we don't fully know about koala behaviour and perhaps even diet.
What is in the selected eucalypt leaves that makes them so special?
The koala may appear to be an armchair traveller, but where really does the koala travel?

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