Gentle and endearing, koalas are everyone's favourite marsupial. Rachele Lowe visited the Koala Park Sanctuary and talked with Dr Russel Dickens, the Sanctuary's specialist koala veterinary surgeon.
You will often hear to koalas been referred to as bears, but they are not related to bears at all. In fact they are distant relatives of the wombat.
Koala's live mainly in Eastern Australia in the Eucalyptus forests and woodlands from Cooktown in Northern Queensland, to south-west Victoria. There is a small colony in South Australia but these were transported from Victoria - the natural population was killed off in the 1920's during the fur trade.
Since white settlement of Australia, over 80% of the koala's natural habitat has been destroyed and of the remaining 20% almost none is protected. While koala's are protected by law, their homes and food are not, and this makes the survival of the species a lot tougher. In fact it is estimated there are only between 40,000 and 80,000 Koala's left in the wild.
Koala's diet mainly consists of leaves from Eucalyptus trees. While there are about 600 varieties of Eucalypts around Australia, only around 120 are suitable for Koalas. However, Koala's in a specific area would normally only eat about 4-6 different types.
The Koala's size varies from around 6kg in Queensland to 13kg in Victoria. A healthy koala should normally have soft, grey fur where as an aged, debilitated or sick Koala will have dry, brown fur.
- Try planting koala food trees. The Australian Koala Foundation can supply you with a list of preferred trees for the area you live in.
- Drive carefully, especially at night and make sure your dog doesn't roam unattended.
- To ensure the survival of this incredible creature we need to protect what is left of its natural habitat and work towards regenerating some of the areas already lost.
Koala Park Sanctuary
84 Castle Hill Road
West Pennant Hills NSW
Ph (02) 9484 3141