They’re an iconic species with a certain teddy bear-esque charm. We’ve studied them in primary school and now and again, if we’re lucky, we see them out and about in our neighborhoods. How is it then, that they are so misunderstood? From believing that they are a type of bear, to how they make great pets - here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about the koala.
1) Koalas are a bear.
False! They are more closely related to kangaroos than to bears. Koalas are a type of marsupial; mammals that have a characteristic pouch in which they carry they’re young.
2) Koalas can be easily handled.
They are furry, round and have big ears. Koalas certainly look cuddly, but they have an aggressive side that can be unleashed when they feel threatened. Wild koalas view humans as predators and will put up a fight if touched or picked up. And they are not unarmed! Koalas have large claws for climbing trees and gripping onto branches.
These are thick and sharp and have been known to inflict permanent scars on koala handlers.
3) Koalas make great pets.
It is illegal to keep a koala unless you have a permit as a carer or in the case of zoos. They are also extremely difficult to look after as they have such a restricted diet and are very territorial. In addition to this, koala populations are dwindling and the more breeding individuals that can be kept in the wild the better.
4) If you see a koala crossing a road you can help by carrying it across.
This happens more often than you would think and is a big no-no. Firstly, koalas should not be man-handled as they can act out aggressively. Secondly, physically moving them interrupts their thought process and leaves them confused. Several cases of koalas being picked up and moved from a road has resulted in fatality - as the koala has become disorientated and walked back onto the road to be hit by another car. If you do see a koala crossing a road, wait for it or shoo it along without touching it.
5) Koalas in urban areas should be relocated to an undeveloped area.
Wildlife organisations receive several calls about koalas in built-up areas that need relocation. Unfortunately, koalas that live in urban areas are at a higher risk of being hit by cars or attacked by dogs and concerned citizens believe they should be moved to a safer area. However, koalas are very territorial and moving them from an area can lead to over-stressing and disorientation. When a koala is in immediate danger it will most likely be relocated by a wildlife officer, but when it is in an area of potential danger it should not be moved. In a particular case, a local koala of the
6) Koalas only leave trees at night.
Koalas are a nocturnal animal which means they are more active at night. However, they can be active during the day as well. They will commonly switch trees during daylight hours and can be seen crossing roads or walking through backyards. This can lead to many problems when they live in urban areas. As most people think koalas are asleep in trees during the day, they are less careful when driving. If you live in a koala-prone area, checking the sides of the road for a crossing koala is just as important during the day as it is at night. Dog attacks are another issue. Dog-related deaths are frequent and to avoid this, owners need to be weary of their backyards. Is there appropriate thoroughfare for koalas i.e. over fences? Are there koalas in the area? How much access to the yard does the dog have?
Discuss what you think in the comments section below.