This week's prompt photograph shows a koala with its mouth wide open, supposedly yawning. Koalas are marsupials that are native only to Australia, although of course some have been exported to zoos around the world. They live in eucalyptus trees and only eat certain type of eucalyptus leaves. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, and that figure could well be a lot lower, because numbers Australia-wide are hard to estimate. The site provides a lot of interesting information about koalas and their habits.
Below is a photograph from one of my mother Jean's albums, showing her friend Elaine, cuddling a koala somewhere during a visit to Australia in 1969. Elaine and Jean became life-long friends, from the time they met when Elaine was a student at a deaf school and Jean was a young newly-qualified speech therapist, teaching there in her first job. Jean moved to Australia but Elaine still lives in New Zealand, where there are no native fauna at all, only birds and flora. The photograph must have been taken in a zoo or wildlife park, because you can't pick these animals up in the wild. They may look cute and cuddly but they are not tame and have to be taught to become used to human contact.
The next photo shows our older daughter and son with a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane Queensland in about 1984.
A few years later in 1987 our two boys were at the same location, with number one son now showing his little brother how to do it. I can imagine that some koalas might get rather tired of posing with humans all day long and that instead of yawning, the koala in the Sepia Saturday prompt could be in fact be yelling: 'I've had enough cuddling, please just go away and leave me in peace!"
The following four photographs are ones I've taken of koalas spotted in their natural habitat, on several Xmas vacations in the small town of Hawks Nest on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, where we are lucky enough to have a holiday unit. The koala colony there is very small, with no more than 12-15 koalas, but they can occasionally be found in the large gum trees lining the local streets, high enough to be safe from dingoes, local dogs and other animals
This next photograph was published on Facebook just recently, and shows a baby koala that had fallen out of a tree during a storm in Hawks Nest, with a gentleman trying to hold it up and coax the mother to come down and get it. Unfortunately that didn't happen, so the baby is now being looked after by a member of the local koala care group at Hawks Nest.
Hopefully you can see more cute pictures and and read all about it here on the Daily Telegraph's facebook page.
There is one area in Victoria where koalas can be seen in large numbers. This is in the Cape Otway National Park, but sadly overpopulation by koalas has resulted in great damage to the trees on which they rely, with the consequence that many of the koalas have been starving. Despite public outcry their numbers have had to be substantially culled by euthanasia, because they don't adapt well to being re-located. I took these photographs below in Cape Otway in October 2012, and you can see that some of the trees are quite lacking in leaves. There were just too many koalas for them to be able to survive happily and in good condition. You can read more about the current management of koalas in Cape Otway here.
A number of koalas are competing for food in this tree.
Male koalas are territorial and will fight other males for their territory and their right to mate with females. That koala in our prompt could well be attempting to assert his domination and scare others away. I can certainly attest to the fact that they make a lot of noise grunting, screaming, growling and bellowing, particularly at night, which you notice if you are staying anywhere near a koala habitat!
One more koala from my photo collection, this time a solitary fellow who was enjoying the sunshine in the Grampians National Park.
I'll just finish with a plea for people to not use the word 'bear' when talking about koalas, because they simply are not related to bears at all. I suggest that this is another possibility for the koala in our prompt. He could be yelling that he is not a bear, or perhaps could be singing the song "Please Don't call me a Koala Bear", sung by Don Spencer, which you can listen to here:
For more posts on koalas and other cuddly furry creatures, or perhaps on yawning or singing or just open mouths, go to Sepia Saturday #335