Koala is a famous marsupial herbivorous animal living on the east and south coast of Australia. This family itself is ancient, about 30 million years it was very diverse, numbering more than 15 species. It is likely that both tree kangaroos and koalas had a common ancestor.
When James Cook discovered Australia, he did not notice this amazing animal. For the first time koalas are mentioned in the records of travelers in 1798. But the scientific description of the animal was made only in 1802. The next year the koala managed to catch and study in detail.
In the XIX-XX centuries the trusting animal became the object of mass extermination because of its fur. The Australian government was forced to prohibit hunting for koalas and to restore the population. Today, these cute, harmless animals are an ornament of any zoo.
Despite all the public’s attention to them, the mild nature of the animal hides a lot of interesting things. And the image of the koala is largely made up of myths, which we will try to debunk.
Koala is a relative of a bear.
The very name of the genus koal – Phascolarctos, comes from the addition of Greek words, literally meaning “bear with a bag”. English-speaking inhabitants of Australia have nicknamed harmless little animals precisely by bears for external similarity with representatives of this family. The bag people just did not see. Even today in everyday life around the world the phrase “koala bear” is adopted. But the closest relatives of this mammal are wombats. Koalas are part of a group of marsupials living in Australia and New Guinea.
Koala is a lazy, slow-moving animal.
The usual condition of koalas is a sleepless sitting on a tree. This is how the animal manifests itself in the daytime in human sight. In this state, it spends 16-18 hours a day. But at night the animal is transformed. It starts to climb trees searching for food, can go down to go to new branches. Koalas can even skilfully jump from tree to tree, they can swim. At the time of danger, these marsupials can be accelerated to a speed of 40 km / h. Once the Australians even took a video of how the koala chased the ATV, clinging to the wheel as a result. In general, sedentary lifestyle determines the characteristics of nutrition – in the leaves of eucalyptus very little protein.
Koala practically does not drink water.
This myth emerged from the name of the animal. In the Darak language, it sounds like “gula”. Probably, the word literally means “does not drink”. It seems that even the aborigines have noticed the koala’s commitment to a dry diet. In fact, the animal needs moisture, but most of it gets from the juicy leaves of the eucalyptus and from drops of dew. And in times of drought or disease koala can even go down to the stream and drink water from there. It is known that water is more required for males, and females sometimes have enough moisture from only the leaves.
Koala is an inoffensive creature.
The koala looks like a big teddy bear, absolutely harmless. Under normal conditions, this marsupial is really not aggressive. But when the mating season comes, the males make real fights for their chosen ones. The case may even turn into serious wounds. If the person next to the enraged koala is a man, then he may not be well. Marsupials can cause serious injuries to each other.
Koala is a silent beast.
There are few people who can hear the koala. But these marsupials are able to communicate with their brethren. Sounds resemble snoring or burping. Moms communicate with the young ones by quiet clicks or grumbling. Also, a cute little animal can make monstrous moans, something in between the sounds of a circular saw and cat’s scream. Australians attributed these sounds to a certain spirit of the forest, unable to believe that they are issued by a pretty koala. In the mating season, male calls can be carried for hundreds of meters. In general, the koala prefers not to spend a few forces on loud sounds.
Because of thick fur, the koala feels uncomfortable.
The strong and thick Koala fur allows it to feel comfortable in the unfavorable rainy season in July. The structure of the coat is such that it does not allow water to pass through. Yes, and the hot sunshine in January, the fur does not miss, creating a comfortable zone for the owner.
Koalas sleep so much, being intoxicated with eucalyptus leaves.
Eucalyptus leaves are rich in poisonous phenols and terpenes. In the autumn, they also contain cyanide acid, which is deadly for most animals. But the powerful koala’s liver can neutralize these natural poisons. The leaves of eucalyptus also have a narcotic effect. All their life, koalas are as if “high”. But they sleep a lot not at all, but for the sake of restoring energy. It is mainly used for digestion of food.
Koalas eat only the leaves of eucalyptus.
The menu of the animal is still not so monotonous. Koalas can also eat leaves of acacia, leptospermum and tea tree. And not all types of eucalyptus are suitable for these marsupials – they choose those in which there are fewer poisons. As a result, out of 800 species of plants, koalas consume only 120, and according to other sources, they are 30. The Koalu can be kept at home.
This is forbidden in any country of the world, even in Australia. The only exception is the staff of the zoo or scientists caring for orphaned or sick koalas. They receive special permission from the authorities, but they are obliged to return the animals to their natural conditions as soon as they recover. The unique physiology and diet of koalas requires special training from people.
All koalas smell of eucalyptus.
Basically, the koala smell as if they had recently eaten a candy from a cough with eucalyptus extract. This smell is pleasant. But mature males usually exude a strong flavor of their glands. This musky smell breaks the smell of eucalyptus. And young koalas have not yet had time to smell their basic food. Mothers teach their offspring to eat different kinds of plants to be able to balance their diet. Different leaves act as a natural repellent from insects.
A person no longer kills koalas, this is strictly prohibited.
Currently, koalas are protected by the state. Despite the fact that koalas were massively destroyed in the 19th and 20th centuries, their population was restored. Today, they are threatened only by fires, deforestation, and ticks imported from other countries. However, at times, populations grow so much that this leads to the depletion of the animal feed base. On the island of Kangaroo in the 2000s, environmentalists even offered to shoot half of the koalas, but this decision was not accepted by the authorities because of fear of deteriorating the image. And in early 2015 in the state of Victoria man was destroyed 686 koalas. So the authorities reduced the population, giving the opportunity to eat normally other animals. This news terrifies, but only in this way it was possible to save the bulk of koalas in a given area.
There are several kinds of koalas.
Science singles out one kind of koala. However, the scientific community is trying to identify two or three subspecies (like human “races”). But there is no uniform opinion on this score, as well as whether there is such a division in nature in general.
Koalas feed on their own feces.
This myth is only partially true. The main food of adult animals are still the leaves. We can speak about nutrition with excrement in relation to the young koalas. The first six months they use mother’s milk, and then switch to food by the mother’s excrement. During this period, her body stops completely digesting the leaves, giving at the exit a semi-prepared gruel. Adult animals eat rough food, which is due to the bacterial environment that has developed in the intestine. Microorganisms help to digest rough food. And young koalas receive the necessary microflora, eating partially digested leaves in the mother’s excrement.
Koalas are intelligent animals.
In the process of evolution, most species perfect their brains. But in the case of the koala, the opposite happened.In the ancestors of the animal, the brain filled the skull completely. But because of the special nutrition and lack of energy, 40% of the skull of the modern koala is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. The ratio of the same weight of the brain to the body is only 1.2%. Of course, such a low intellect affects animals. For example, in the event of a fire, koalas do not descend from the tree and do not run away, but simply snug against the trunk. And they can not resist aggression.
The koalas have no natural enemies.
On the trees with them, no one competes and does not feud. But on the ground koalas can become victims of domestic dogs or dingoes. Stupid marsupials do not realize the danger and do not run away, being torn to pieces. But the meat of these marsupials is not used by other animals because of the strong odor of the eucalyptus. Today, scientists are increasingly sounding the alarm – a decrease in the number of eucalyptus trees causes stress, and its consequence is chlamydia. Koalas are generally considered painful animals, which determines the monotonous diet. These animals are often ill with cystitis, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, which translates into pneumonia.
The koal can be bred in Russia.
To keep koalas in captivity is a difficult activity, especially in our conditions. The fact is that every day this animal needs a minimum of a kilogram of fresh eucalyptus leaves. At us such trees grow only in Sochi, and the domestic kind of a tree koalam as a food does not approach.