Koala Bears: The Cutest, Cuddliest Animal in the World (That Will Rip Your Face Off)
It's a commonly known fact that just about every single member of the fauna that call Australia home can and will kill you if given the chance. The continent is home to the world's most venomous snakes, a myriad of venomous spiders, poisonous stonefish and jellyfish, saltwater crocodiles, sharks, emus, cassowaries, and the blue-ringed octopus. Even the platypus, for all its comical appearance, has a poisonous bite that produces so much pain that the only treatment for it is to permanently sever the nerve endings around the affected area.
Yet, despite this, many of the animals native to the Land Down Under have a disarming appearance that could easily fool someone who's never lived among them into thinking that they are adorable little things with a genteel disposition who would make an absolutely perfect pet, or at the very least, something that would be perfectly safe to interact with if encountered in the wild. Chief among these is the koala bear.
Look at that face! Just look at it. Isn't it just the sweetest thing. It's like a teddy bear the size of a small dog. Don't you just want to go over to him, scoop him up into your arms, and give him a big squeeze?
Well, don't. Seriously, just…don't.
Despite outward appearances, it is important to remember first and foremost that koala bears are wild animals that have never been domesticated in all the history of human habitation of Australia. Like all animals, they are instinctively driven to seek out the basic necessities in life and remove all obstacles in their way of obtaining them. Messing around with any animal that is not domesticated (and doing so with many that are) is on an order of magnitude of stupidity akin to playing four-square with a live hand grenade.
On top of that, comparing the koala's appearance and its behavior in the wild is likely to give you a rather jarring cognitive dissonance. Let's start with how this thing signals that a section of land he's occupying is his territory:
These things sound like the cave troll from Fellowship of the Ring with emphysema.
Now, let's go over what these animals can do to you if they decide you've come too close to them. The koala bear, despite its common name, is not a bear; it is a marsupial. It lives in and spends most of its time climbing trees. For this purpose, it has evolved five long, razor-sharp claws on each hand and foot. The koala is more than strong enough to cut human flesh with these claws, and has done so on many occasions. Its thumbs are opposable, meaning it can grab onto you and hold whatever it is trying to cut open in place while it squeezes its claws into your leg, chest, neck, or whatever happens to look like a good handhold.
The koala's claws are fortunately small enough to not disembowel you. However, let's remember that the koala subsists entirely on eucalyptus leaves. That means that it handles the leaves and the branches, which are famously low in protein and high in very dangerous toxins.
The koala's liver has evolved over millions of years to filter out these toxins from its body. Yours has not.
This means that a swipe from a koala bear in the wild is likely to introduce some lovely foreign bacteria into your bloodstream.
Now, let's review the koala bear's temperament.
These animals are not docile. They're animals. They're territorial. If you get too close to one, there's a chance it's coming after you. It doesn't really care that you're much bigger than it is. You're encroaching on the territory it considers its own, and it may take that fact as a challenge.
The Bottom Line
As stated before, the koala bear's diet is made up entirely of eucalyptus leaves. They're not predatory animals; they won't hunt you down and eat you. But the important fact to be respected is that, while these things may have a cute appearance, they're not to be approached or handled in any way. They have the ability to inflict serious injury if they feel threatened or challenged. Do yourself a favor and observe the cuteness from a respectable distance.