What can we do to rectify this atrocity?
If you are like me, you may have reacted relatively strongly to the news that Koala Bears had been newly listed as “endangered.” This is an escalation from the “vulnerable” designation they received in 2012. It is said the overall population of Koalas has decreased by 50% in the ten years since this designation.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley stated:
The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the endangered label.
The announcement by Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley affects koala populations in the eastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, as well as in the Australian Capital Territory.
What kid didn’t hold some affinity for these lovable animals growing up? Along with Koalas, their love for Eucalyptus leaves was always well known. The dearly departed comedian Mitch Hedberg had a joke I was always fond of:
My apartment is infested with koala bears. It’s the cutest infestation ever… Way better than cockroaches. When I turn on the light, a bunch of koala bears scatter. And I don’t want ’em to. I’m like, ‘Hey, hold on fellas — Let me hold one of you.’ (joke by Mitch Hedberg)
As much as I love Koala bears, you learn they are not the friendliest animals, though their cute looks would tell you otherwise. As detailed in this article in Mental Floss. The report elaborates on Koalas generally keeping to themselves and remaining on a strictly snacking and napping schedule over 22 hours. There are times when they can be aggressive and will attack when they feel threatened, their territory is being impeded, or their young are in danger.
They protect themselves using their claws or teeth and can prove to be quite aggressive if provoked (Aren’t we all?). One such “attack” was reported by several outlets, including newser.com. Mary Anne Forster was walking her dogs when they started to pull her towards the tree’s base where a Koala was occupying. Added Note: Over 100 Koalas are lost to dog attacks over a year. The Koala, feeling threatened, attacked the dogs, and Mary Anne was on the receiving end of a very violent Koala bite. So strong was the bite she had to pry the mouth open with her hands to release it.
Mary Anne was lucky as she only had to receive 12 stitches, but it could have been worse. Koalas are known carriers of Chlamydia, a significant factor contributing to the Koala decline. This disease, also a common sexually transmitted infection in people, frequently leads to blindness, severe bladder inflammation, infertility, and death in Koala populations. Antibiotics can’t easily treat it as they can adversely affect the Koala’s natural gut microbes. The Koala’s ability to digest Eucalyptus leaves can be severely limited.
What have we established here? Koala Bears are still adorable for all intents and purposes. As these are wild animals and very territorial, one should not try to cuddle these little furry creatures. If we are to continue to adore these animals from afar, we must instill programs that will protect their habitats, find viable cures for the impacts of disease, and control our dogs.
If you feel inclined, donations to the Koala Conservation effort can be made to the Wildlifewarriors.org.au.