Koala: Australia’s Iconic Species Name Institution Koala: Australia’s Iconic Species Australia is celebrated with the rich biodiversity of its natural resources which is responsible for a variety of ecosystem goods and services beneficent to life. A wide range of plants and animal species abound its ecosystem…
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Koalas are marsupial mammals found in the South Eastern region of Australia, thriving with eucalyptus leaves as a source of moisture and food. Its name is the direct translation of “no drink” from the native Australian language since the Aborigines observed that the animals do not drink much water. The koala is often described as an ash colored pouched bear although they are not relatives of bears. Their bodies are lined with thick fur, the ears fluffy and the nose broad and flat. As tree climbers, koalas have large hands and strong limbs necessary for such activity. Their useless tails are short and stumpy (Koalas). Female koalas are equipped with pouches where the developing offsprings are carried. In 1818, a European scientist discovered the species and called it Phascolarcto cinereu (Helmer, 1997). Over the years, two sub species of koala are discovered and scientists recently Priscakoala lucyturnbullae to the list, calling it as largest koala species found in Riversleigh World Heritage area in northern Australia (Black, Archer and Hand, 2012). In addition, koalas are classified as arboreal or those who live in the trees. They solely acquire their water and food requirements on eucalypt leaf, where Eucalyptus tereticornis and Eucalyptus crebra are noted as the dominated species preferred. Helmer (1997, p. 6) described their eating behavior further by stating, “Each koala chooses about twelve eucalyptus trees as its own. Each tree is like a picnic table. More than one koala might eat fro that tree. But only one koala or family visit that three at one time.” These marsupials are solitary animals, favoring to move just after sunset and spend 80% of their time sleeping. Mating season occurs every summer or between October and February. Conception lasts for five weeks, and the new born Joeys stay inside the mothers’ pouches to drink milk for six months (Koalas). The acknowledgement of the koalas as a symbolism for local pride arose slowly in Australia. Initially known as a place to accommodate exiled convicts from mainland Europe, the early settlers of the colony had a sense of cultural inferiority and alienation to their new location. As Moyal (2008, p.131) noted, “They had been taught to regard the seemingly freakish Australian animals, without parallel in the northern hemisphere, as anomalous and clearly inferior to other mammals, the placental sheep and cattle, imported to graze in the Australian countryside…”. The indiscriminate killings of the koalas were prevalent at that time, the famous one being the Queensland koala massacre of 1927. Hunters are after the koala skins since it had a high market value in the fur trade at that time. Approximately 7,000,000 were killed and around 3,000,000 koala skins were marketed in the 1920s. However, the discoveries of the wide range of unique flora and fauna in the vast bushlands by the home-grown colonials brought a shift of emotional attachment to the country. During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the distinctness of the explored wild life gave rise to the appreciation of its beauty which flamed a sense of nationalism to the people, making them to finally recognize the unique identity of Australia (Helmer, 1997). Moreover, the koala began to surprisingly take over
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