For each country that I visit, there is usually at least one thing I look forward to. For Australia, that was a chance to see koalas, native to to Australia, in person.
Having never seen one live in person, my image of a koala is that of a small, cute fuzzy animal. That’s a dangerous combination. I really like cute and fuzzy. I mean, just look at it:
Needless to say, I planned my trip to include visits to catch a glimpse of them. This included a visit to the Taronga Zoo, an easy scenic ferry ride from Sydney. The Blue Mountains tour also included a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Shortly before the trip, I saw a nature special on television called the “Cracking the Koala Code” that focuses on koalas and their social behaviors. I tuned in to the program with keen interest.
Well, let me just put it this way: It was educational.
Things I did not know:
- Koalas sleep a lot. And I mean a lot. They sleep for about 20 hours out of 24 hours a day. It’s not because they are lazy, but it’s mostly metabolic reasons. Their diet consists mainly of eucalyptus leaves, and they need time to digest toxins from the plant. Sleep allows them to conserve energy.
- They are highly promiscuous creatures. Unfortunately, chlamydia is threatening the species which can also be passed from parent to child. According to the article, “Chlamydia affects male and female koalas, and even the little ones called joeys – who pick it up suckling from their mothers in the pouch.”
- Koala can be very aggressive. They also have very sharp teeth and large sharp claws. Do not approach carelessly if you encounter one in the wild.
My first sighting of a koala was at the Taronga Zoo. Somebody said, “I think that’s a koala on the tree!” I headed over excitedly to try a catch a glimpse. Yes, that is a koala! It wasn’t easy trying to get a closer look. They were at a distance and sat high up on a tree. The weather was also challenging that day.
Fortunately, we had a much more personal experience at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. We got to the park before the crowds. While guests can’t hold a koala, the staff placed a koala at a prime picture location and kept the koala busy by feeding it the eucalyptus plant.
While the koala was occupied with eating, guests can approach and take a picture with the koala. Guests can also pet its back gently if desired. I petted its back. Its fur was thick, but it was also very wet! My hands got all wet. I have no idea if the koala was sweating up a storm (eek!) or if the park staff had just given a wash to the koala. I hoped it was the latter!
Sadly, the population of koala is on the decline, and koalas are on a few vulnerable species list.
The trip to Australia was the trip of a lifetime. I am just thrilled that I got the chance to see a koala up close and personal. While koalas are not really as cute and fuzzy as the image I had in my head growing up, I still think they are pretty awesome.
If you are visiting Australia for the first time, don’t miss the chance to see them.
Have you seen a koala in person, and where did you see one?