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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

PLEASE Don't call me a Koala Bear!


This week's prompt photograph shows a koala with its mouth wide open, supposedly yawning. Koalas are marsupials that are native only to Australia, although of course some have been exported to zoos around the world.  They live in eucalyptus trees and only eat certain type of eucalyptus leaves. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, and that figure could well be a lot lower, because numbers Australia-wide are hard to estimate. The site provides a lot of interesting information about koalas and their habits.

Below is a photograph from one of my mother Jean's albums, showing her friend Elaine, cuddling a koala somewhere during a visit to Australia in 1969. Elaine and Jean became life-long friends, from the time they met when Elaine was a student at a deaf school and Jean was a young newly-qualified speech therapist, teaching there in her first job. Jean moved to Australia but Elaine still lives in New Zealand, where there are no native fauna at all, only birds and flora.  The photograph must have been taken in a zoo or wildlife park, because you can't pick these animals up in the wild. They may look cute and cuddly but they are not tame and have to be taught to become used to human contact.



The next photo shows our older daughter and son with a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane Queensland in about 1984.



A few years later in 1987 our two boys were at the same location, with number one son now showing his little brother how to do it.  I can imagine that some koalas might get rather tired of posing with humans all day long and that instead of yawning, the koala in the Sepia Saturday  prompt could be in fact be yelling: 'I've had enough cuddling, please just go away and leave me in peace!"


The following four photographs are ones I've taken of koalas spotted in their natural habitat, on several  Xmas vacations in the small town of Hawks Nest on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, where we are lucky enough to have a holiday unit. The koala colony there is very small, with no more than 12-15 koalas, but they can occasionally be found in the large gum trees lining the local streets, high enough to be safe from dingoes, local dogs and other animals










This next photograph was published on Facebook just recently, and shows a baby koala that had fallen out of a tree during a storm in Hawks Nest, with a gentleman trying to hold it up and coax the mother to come down and get it. Unfortunately that didn't happen, so the baby is now being looked after by a member of the local koala care group at Hawks Nest.



Hopefully you can see more cute pictures and and read all about it here  on the Daily Telegraph's facebook page.

There is one area in Victoria where koalas can be seen in large numbers. This is in the Cape Otway National Park, but sadly overpopulation by koalas has resulted in great damage to the trees on which they rely, with the consequence that many of the koalas have been starving. Despite public outcry their numbers have had to be substantially culled by euthanasia, because they don't adapt well to being re-located. I took these photographs below in Cape Otway in October 2012, and you can see that some of the trees are quite lacking in leaves. There were just too many koalas for them to be able to survive happily and in good condition. You can read more about the current management of koalas in Cape Otway here.

                                  


                                 
                                          A number of koalas are competing for food in this tree.


                                  



                                  


Male koalas are territorial and will fight other males for their territory and their right to mate with females. That koala in our prompt could well be attempting to assert his domination and scare others away. I can certainly attest to the fact that they make a lot of noise grunting, screaming, growling and bellowing, particularly at night, which you notice if you are staying anywhere near a koala habitat!


One more koala from my photo collection, this time a solitary fellow who was enjoying the sunshine in the Grampians National Park. 

                                   


I'll just finish with a plea for people to not use the word 'bear' when talking about koalas, because they simply are not related to bears at all. I suggest that this is another possibility for the koala in our prompt. He could be yelling that he is not a bear, or perhaps could be singing the song "Please Don't call me a Koala Bear", sung by Don Spencer, which you can listen to here:



For more posts on koalas and other cuddly furry creatures, or perhaps  on yawning or singing or just open mouths, go to Sepia Saturday #335

14 comments:

  1. Hello Jo, We’ve spent a good deal of our looking for Koalas while on holiday in Australia. We’ve been lucky enough to spot them in the wild a few times, but like you say they are always high up in the gum trees. We got much closer when we visited a Koala sanctuary a few years ago & even ‘sponsored’ a koala. They are such super creatures, but I don’t think they were designed to be cuddled. I would not like to come into close contact with either their claws or their teeth. The picture of the Koala baby is just lovely, and I’m glad he is being taken care of.
    I so enjoyed your post and loved the song at the end.

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    1. Thanks Barbara, I hope you come back soon. I on the other hand have to go the other way to see our daughter and granddaughter, and will be making an extra trip in October to meet a new little grandchild expected then.

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  2. Any time 'management' of any kind of animal is mentioned, there is always an 'outcry' from somewhere. But the truth is - left unchecked, the animals will perish on their own from sickness and starvation. People become angry about managing deer herds & etc. here, but it's absolutely necessary to keep the animals alive in the best possible health.

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  3. Thank goodnesss, someone who really knows about Koalas and their habitat! The pictures are delightful, especially the baby.

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  4. Great post about koalas. We are also having problems in the Adelaide Hills with koala populations eating out the trees. On Kangaroo Island this has been happening for a very long time.

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    1. Yes, we went to Kangaroo Island a few years ago and saw some koalas but not many. We're heading to Victor Harbour in Septemberfor a gathering with old school friends, some of whom are also visiting KI, but we'll just be staying on the mainland this time.

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  5. Great shots of Koalas. It is a shame that they need to be culled but understandable. We have the opposite problem with the Koala numbers decreasing due to loss of habitat to housing developments.

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  6. I have never heard the sound of a koala although I've seen them in zoos. They certainly have sweet faces and their expression makes them look like they should be cuddly. But then I got a good look at those claws! I really enjoyed this fact-filled post and all the photos.

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  7. I promise to never mislabel the Koala again! :–( I knew of their dependence on Eucalyptus leaves but I did not know how limited they were to specific species. We have black bears here in the Appalachians and young ones will occasionally wander into our town. They come looking for bird feeders, bbq grills, and bee hives. Our neighbor had one on the front porch last week and they have two dogs who failed the watchdog test.

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  8. I think Photo albums are full with people cuddling Koalas. As you say they are wild and I have seen one freaking out. It was brought by someone to a wildlife place in Grafton NSW, the person was holding a Koala in her arms when suddenly it started to cry and claw wildly her arms, she was bleeding and had big gashes. She should have folded it in a blanket to carry, but did not know this. I always carried a blanket in my car in case I found an injured animal along the bush road I had to travel.

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    1. I'm not sure that we've done koalas any favours by promoting them as naturally cuddly. Also when I've visited sanctuaries like Lone Pine the koala inmates don't look too happy to be there.

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  9. Great post, and you are so fortunate to have seen them regularly...they are increasingly rare...or perhaps we don't stop long enough to spot them.

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  10. We are lucky that koalas live in our bush block and we regularly have them in or garden trees. But many a time I've been scared out of my wits when walking in the bush looking for birds or plants, minding my own business, enjoying the bush ... when a male koala bellows like a bull right above me. My first thought is always 'bull' before I realise it's 'koala' and relax.

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    1. Right, I thought they only did that at night. You must have got some good photos then, as no doubt you would have your camera a the ready.

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