Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

No trip to Brisbane is complete without a trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary – and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Aside from the main attraction, the kangaroos, wombats and tasmanian devils proved to be pretty entertaining…

 

But back to the Koalas. While I could write a whole blog post about how utterly cute and adorable they are, a budding biologist should try to include at least a few facts about their biology, so here goes…

 

First things first, koalas are not in fact found in the wild throughout Australia, but in the eucalypt forests and woodlands of four states: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

With a short gestation period of 33 to 35 days, at birth a koala joey looks a lot like a pink jellybean. After 6 months in the mother’s pouch the joey emerges and begins to ride on the mother’s back instead. At 12 months joeys are completely weaned and independent.

Calling a koala a ‘bear’ is scientifically incorrect. Koalas are marsupial mammals not placental mammals like bears and humans. The correct name therefore is simply ‘koala.’ The word ‘koala’ is thought to have come from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘no drink.’ The majority of their hydration requirements are met by moisture in the eucalyptus leaves they eat.

However, they are incredibly fussy eaters. Despite there being over 800 species of eucalypts, koalas are partial towards only 50 varieties. The leaves are fibrous and low in nutrition, so while they spend around 4 hours eating per day…

…they have adapted to their low energy diet by chillin’ out for the remaining 20 hours to conserve their energy…

The thick fur on koala bottoms acts like a cushion between the koala and the hard branches they sit on. The speckled appearance of this fur makes it challenging for predators, like goannas, to spot koalas from the ground.

When not resting they tend to be found curled up in a ball asleep…

…or stretched out asleep…

IMG_1883
Cuddles with Fingle

In ideal conditions in the wild, male koalas live to about the age of 10; females may live a few years longer. Although there were once millions of koalas, hunting them for their fur in the 1920s lead to a major decline in their numbers. Today many koalas succumb to habitat destruction, traffic strikes and dog attacks, leaving less than 100,000 koalas in the wild. There is still a long way to go toward ensuring their persistence, but many efforts are being made to protect them.

So, long live the koalas! They’re rather cute after all, aren’t they?

http://www.uq.edu.au/studyabroad/studentblogs/2016/04/05/lone-pine-koala-sanctuary-2/

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