Australian Marsupials - Koala
The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a Tree living, plant eating marsupial native to my country Australia and is believed to be the only species still living from the 'Phascolarctidae' family. This is why there is a concerted effort to keep the Koala healthy and able to live in it's native habitat.
The Koala resides mainly on the Southeast coast of Australia and much research is being carried out on these Marsupials in my state of Victoria.
Replenishment stock is being supplied from Victoria to other states such as South Australia where stocks have been depleted for various reasons.
Koala is NOT a Bear
Although often referred to as a 'Koala Bear'. Even though the Koala is
a cute and cuddly animal like a Teddy Bear it is not really a bear.
Both animals although classed as 'Mammals' are in different 'families' in the Scientific Classification.
The Koala is classified from the 'Phascolarctos cinereus' Family and the Bear is from the 'Ursidae' Family.
Diet of the Koala
The diet of the Koala is almost entirely confined to the 'leaves' of a specific type of eucalyptus tree which would explain why the Koala mainly inhabits the south eastern areas of Australia. This in itself is a problem for Koalas being held in captivity as the leaves of these eucalyptus trees are not that easy to locate and harvest.
The Koala ( which in the native language means something akin to 'no water' ) is reported to not drink water, although this is in dispute, some people believe that the Koala gets all it's liquid from the food it eats!
Fast Facts on the Koala
So now some interesting things about the Koala.
Koalas are Marsupials
A marsupial is a small class of mammals that carry their young in a pouch usually in the tummy region of their body.
It has been discovered that the Koala has fingerprints very similar to Human fingerprints. In fact so alike that some experts cannot say which is human and which is from the Koala.
Thumbs , 2 on each hand
Although it has 5 digits on each 'hand', the same as we humans, a Koala has 2 thumbs on each 'hand'. The thumbs are opposable to make it easier for the Koala to climb trees and sleep in the positions that we humans would find impossible.
Generally the color of the Koala is grey ranging from dark to light grey. However there are variations especially here in Victoria.
We have many Koalas here which range in color from the above mentioned Greys to a chocolate color going from a dark chocolate to 'Golden' shades. Sometimes a Koala will exhibit the whole range with 'Golden Stripes' on its body!
The Koala's closest living relative is another Australian Marsupial, known as the Wombat.
There are many sanctuaries in Australia where Koalas are kept in captivity.
In Victoria alone we have places such as:
The Healesville Sanctuary near Healesville just outside of Melbourne
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wild Life Sanctuary near Geelong
However I prefer where I can to see animals in their natural habitat so I suggest if you want to see Koala in the wild you take a nice drive down to a place called Raymond Island.
Raymond Island is situated in the Gippsland Lakes about a 3 hour leisurely drive from Melbourne. The trip is via a divided Highway from Melbourne to Bairnesdale and then turn right and head towards Paynesville. At the end of the road you will find the Ferry.
The only access to Raymond Island is by boat. There is a Vehicle Ferry operating continuously from Paynesville to Raymond Island. (There is a fee for this trip)
If you prefer you can park your car at Paynesville and travel by foot or bicycle on the Ferry to Raymond Island for free!
It will only require a few minutes walking and you will see Koalas in the gum trees.
Most of the photographs I have displayed here were taken on Raymond Island.
Private Animal Refuges
There are smaller private refuges run by animal loving families who give up their own homes and comforts to care for sick and injured Koalas.
One such person is a lady who runs a refuge from her home and calls it Sleepy Hollow. The kindhearted people who run these refuges do so at their own expense and get very little support from Governments and Councils.
The last time I was at Sleepy Hollow I was delivering a Fruit Bat that had flown into our house to hibernate. At Sleep Hollow then there were 3 Koalas, 1 Kangaroo, 2 Wallabies and others. These animals were not pets they were to be released back into the bush when considered to be well enough to survive!