Get to know Australia’s koalas
Are koalas a type of bear?
Although a popular theory, koalas have no relation to bears. Bears are placental mammals and koalas are marsupials. This means koalas give birth to a joey the size of a peanut that crawls into the pouch and spends the first six months of its life. The koala’s closest living relative is the wombat which is ironic as one lives underground and the other in the trees.
How long do koalas live?
In both the wild and in captivity, koalas can live up to 15 years old. They are sexually mature at the age of two and females have the ability to have over 10 joeys in their lifetime.
Which states in Australia can you find koalas?
Koalas live along the whole East Coast of Australia. Their favourite habitats are along the great dividing range in the eucalyptus forests. They range from Queensland, through New South Wales and all the way down to Victoria and South Australia.
Believe it or not, YES! At the age of around six months, koala joeys eat their mum’s poo for several days. This is the stage of life just before the joey will emerge from the pouch and begin to eat eucalyptus leaves and the process is called papping. The difference between normal faeces and pap is that pap has live bacteria and is runny whereas normal poo is hard and pellet shaped.The reason why they do this is because koala joeys are not born with the digestive enzymes to digest the toxic eucalyptus leaves. By doing this, the joey gets an introduction to enzymes/bacteria and in the coming weeks can begin to eat the leaves. Without papping the joey could not survive as an adult koala.
Are koalas friendly to humans?
Koalas in the wild are not friendly to humans and very rarely do they come in contact with each other. If a wild koala is caught it will bite and scratch and can be rather nasty. On the other hand, koalas that have been kept in wildlife sanctuaries, become accustomed to people have an adorable nature.
Can you cuddle a koala?
Most wildlife organisations in Australia have enclosures where you can meet a koala but you can only hold them in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Queensland and South Australia.
Gum leaves or eucalyptus is the only food that koalas eat. There are around 2,000 species of gum trees in Australia and koalas only eat a select few of these so keeping them happy and fed is a big job.
Do koalas drink water?
Koalas do and can drink water. However, they rarely come to the ground. They only come to the ground if they need to move to another tree to find more food. When they do they are vulnerable to predators such as dingoes. More often than not, koalas get all the water they need from the succulent young leaves they eat.
Where do koalas sleep?
Koalas sleep in the trees, right at the top. They actually have a hard cartilage plate along their back that over time develops a groove and allows them to wedge their bottom in a fork of a tree. Koalas sleep for up to 20 hours every day. There is a common myth that koalas are drunk from the leaves they eat. This isn’t true. The truth is that gum leaves are very low in nutritional value. The best way to conserve energy related to a low energy diet is to sleep. When they are awake they almost never stop eating. It’s a fine balance and if a koala is awake for too long burning energy they would be using more energy than they can possibly eat in the day!
CYPRINUS carpio or as it is more commonly known, the European carp, is one of the world’s most common freshwater fish. It is extensively farmed in Europe, Asia and the Middle East for food. Carp were introduced to China, Japan and Italy in ancient times and from Rome spread to Greece and southern Europe. They arrived in central Europe in the 12th century and England in the 14th century.
While a popular angling species in Europe, in Australia the carp is considered a pest by most anglers. The exact date of the carp’s initial introduction to Australia is unclear. Some records claim the species was introduced to waters near Sydney as early as the 1850s. Others claim the first introduction was to Victoria in the 1870s. The earliest documented report was from David Stead who purchased carp from a “bird and animal dealer “in Sydney and introduced them into Prospect Reservoir in 1907 and 1908. They became known as the “Prospect strain”. During the 1940s and 1950s there were reports of carp in the irrigation channels of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.These were different from the Prospect fish in that they were orange in colour and became known as the “Yanco” strain. In 1961 or 1962, a fish farmer in south-eastern Victoria introduced a carp to his ponds at Boolara.
So why was it that we only witnessed a dramatic increase in the carp’s range in the 1970s when they had been present for many years in Australia?
Genetic research has shown the fourtypes of carp; the Prospect, Yanco, Koi (Japanese for carp) and Boolarra strains, behave differently. The Boolarra strain was probably imported from Europe where it had been developed specifically for fish farming and only the Boolarra and Koi strains could colonise and rapidly adapt to our environment. And as they say, the rest is history!
Love them or hate them carp are a victim of circumstance. It’s a shame they are here in Australia turning the clear flowing rivers of our childhood into muddy, soupy streams that sometimes fail to clear over a summer. A lot of kids have grown up with carp in rivers and impoundments and don’t have memories of clear flowing waters healthy with native fish.
Somewhat surprisingly, some anglers advocate the release of carp after capture while others have been known to illegally translocate these fish to help their distribution. In NSW, carp are currently listed as a Class 3 noxious species under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. This permits their sale and possession and the listing recognises the fact that wild carp are a commercially fished species; koi carp are an important ornamental fish in NSW.
Currently it is not illegal for recreational fishers to return carp to the water where they were captured, however, Industry and Investment NSW strongly encourages fishers to retain and utilise them. Under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 it is illegal to introduce any live fish into any public waterway without a permit (with the exception of immediate re-release of fish at the site they were captured).