Chlamydia, AIDS, a stoner reputation and a life threatening eating disorder – sounds like a celebrity from the 80s hey?
This is just what a koala has to put up with day to day. I’ve recently visited the Gold Coast in Australia and spent a day and night up at Binna Burra Lodge in the Hinterland Rainforest. I met one of the general managers here, Dean, and found out all about how hard it is for koalas in this life.
It all starts when they’re born and they immediately have Chlamydia. This is not sexually transmitted, like in humans, but is hereditary and turns their bums orange in the worse cases. This can leave them blind and infertile – not good for the survival of the furry creatures. More recently it’s been found out that some of the koala population also have AIDS, to add to their dwindling numbers.
Little bit of history on the koala
It’s estimated there are now 50-80,000 koalas left in the wild in Australia, depending on who you talk to. At one point, only 20 years or so ago, there were 8 million. Thanks to the Americans, who took a liking to their soft to the touch fur for a snuggly scarf, more than 1 million were murdered for their pelt in 1919. It was good old Eleanor Roosevelt who stopped this practice, saying that she thought it was mean and heartless and she ordered her hubby to pass a law to stop it, so he did. His being under the thumb helped our dear furry friends greatly and the law soon came to pass that you would be heavily fined if found with the ‘material’.
Very sadly, Dean told us that it was still very likely that within our lifetime koalas would be extinct in the wild.
Thankfully, places like Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast have a whole survival programme for koalas and their work means the koalas will last among us for as long as possible.
Love a koala urban legend
After telling my group that they were constantly stoned on eucalyptus leaves, I was told that was actually an urban legend.
In actual fact, they will only eat eucalyptus leaves which have little to no energy in, leaving them with no energy too. To make it worse, each one will only eat a particular type of gumtree leave native to their ‘tribe’ and area. This means that if you take a northern Australia koala and put it in the south, it will starve rather than eat the vegetation there.
They’re too lazy to breed, they fall out of trees and get run over, birds of prey feed on them and they’re so fussy with what they eat, they’re dying of starvation.
Life is tough as a koala.