Wild Koala Day 2020
The Wild Koala of Australia’s is the most famous and favourite animal and a national symbol of Australia’s unique wildlife.
Over the past five years, the koala population has declined in Australia. For this reason, Koalas are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ with numbers decreasing (IUCN red list of Endangered Species). Currently, it is estimated that there are approximately 2000 – 8000 koalas left in the wild. Sadly, numbers have decreased by 90% over the past ten years.
Koalas are very distantly related to wombats and kangaroos. They are the only animals to have a unique fingerprint. They are not bears and are not related to bears. Given that the Koala is a marsupial, infants are born very small and are raised within the mother’s pouch.
Their habitats are Queensland in Australia’s East Coast, New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and South Australia in the wild. Koala survives on a diet of eucalyptus leaves and can consume up to 1 kg of leaves per day. However, they prefer to eat the younger and more juicy nutrient full leaves at the treetops. Consequently, we often see them very high up in the trees. The name Koala means “no drink” in the Australian Aboriginal language. Koalas are often seen high up in eucalyptus trees wedged in sleeping, as they are known for sleeping 18 hours a day.
Major threats to Koalas
Due to deforestation, koalas lose their homes and have nowhere to go. With declining eucalyptus trees, koalas have to spend more time on the ground searching for food and shelter. Consequently, they are at high risk of being hit by vehicles and attacked by wild and domestic dogs. They are also susceptible to stress-induced illnesses, such as chlamydia. Kangaroo Island koalas are the only koala population in Australia free from chlamydia. Any koala taken from Kangaroo Island to the mainland can never return. The reason being, the risk of infecting the rest of the island’s population. Koalas survive well in the cooler climates but suffer significantly in the heat.
Koalas live mainly in trees, wedged between branches to rest and sleep. Koalas rotund backsides in their lower spine have firm cartilage, which helps to support them in the tree branches. Koalas are mainly nocturnal.
Following the arrival of Europeans to Australia in 1788, koala habitats were cleared for farms, towns, roads, mines, and logging. Consequently, this severely affected their population. They were also hunted and killed for their fur. Due to the hunting, the Australian Government deemed them as a Protected Species in 1937.
In the summer of 2019/2020, catastrophic bushfires consumed large swathes of land. An estimated 30% of koalas were killed in New South Wales. While at the same time, over 10,000 koalas perished in these fires across Australia. Thankfully, the koala population is slowly returning. Many of the injured koalas have been released back into the wild following their treatment and care for burns sustained in these fires.
How can we help save the remaining koalas
Australia Koala Foundation and Bushfire Emergency – Adopt a Koala. There are many ways to support their appeal to raise awareness and support their ongoing and successful programs to save these amazing animals.
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