“Koala rescued after causing five-car pileup on Australian freeway …”
OK, when I saw this headline and the accompanying photograph (below), my immediate reaction was WTH! (“What The Heck,” as I am aware QBBlogue has younger readers) — as I was certain this little gaffer couldn’t possibly reach the gas pedal.
It turns out that the little guy was wandering across the freeway, and, as Aussies are acutely aware that koalas are a protected species, drivers swerved to avoid him, and five cars piled into one another.
Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported, and a motorist carefully picked up the koala and put him in the trunk of her SUV. He then made his way to the front seat and took over the steering wheel. He was eventually turned over to wildlife officials.
The accident was reported over the Valentine’s Day weekend, remarkably coincident with my own musings about getting a pet. I love dogs, and am especially fond of dachshunds, schnauzers and cockapoos, if only because these breeds belong to friends, and each breed has character and is cute, something I judge to be important in a dog. And as we are working our way through the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought that owning a dog would fill several voids: for example, getting out in the fresh air, meeting friends walking their dogs and without doubt comparing their less appealing dogs to mine; or playing “fetch” with a ball that only occasionally is returned, and when returned, is drenched in mucous; or taking money that might otherwise be spent traveling south and re-purposing it to pay vet bills.
Then it occurred to me earlier this morning, “I should look into getting a koala as a pet.” How cool would it be to take my koala out for a walk, amidst the crowds of dogs and dog walkers. There are some real pluses to the idea. Koalas are cute (think, “chick magnet,” which might have been relevant five decades ago), koalas don’t bark, and they have to climb a tree to pee and poop, so no need to carry a bag.
Perhaps I might share some background on koalas. The name “koala” is of Australian aboriginal origin, and means “no drink.” It seems that koalas are able to obtain water from eucalyptus leaves, their main source of food.
Koala bears are not bears of course, but marsupials; mammals with pouches to accommodate newborns. Depending on location in Australia, koalas weigh between 10 to 14, to as much as 25 pounds. They may live for 20 years. Koalas are related to wombats, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and to opossums, which are the only marsupials found in North America. The following is a photo of a Virginia opossum. Nowhere near as cuddly as a koala.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, between 47,000 and 85,000 koalas exist in the wild. Those numbers, while seemingly impressive, are concerning, as koala habitat (including eucalyptus trees) are under pressure from human encroachment, and during the last several years, from the destruction caused by wildfires. A real concern among wildlife authorities and scientists is infection in koalas caused by chlamydia. Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection in humans, and while koalas are often infected by a different strain of chlamydia, the consequences may be serious, including blindness, infertility and bladder dysfunction.
Cute and cuddly, yes, but contact with humans causes stress in koalas. Better to be left to their habitat. In Australia it is forbidden to have koalas as pets, and they are left alone, save for the relative few in zoos. Koalas are herbivores, but they will attack humans with sharp claws and teeth, especially when shielding their young.
Koalas sleep for 18 to 22 hours a day, so taking a koala for a walk may prove fruitless when he wants stop every few yards for a nap. Plus koalas need eucalyptus leaves to survive, at least a pound or two a day. I went on the PetSmart website and searched “eucalyptus leaves” only to find “Dog Urine Destroyer – Eucalyptus and Rosemary Scent.” Not helpful.
And so, in the time it has taken to write this, the idea of having a pet koala has vaporized. What with chlamydia; cuteness and cuddliness that disguises potential viciousness; the penchant for sleeping for all but a couple of hours a day; and the fact that it is illegal to have a pet koala, I am done … although not quite done with this blogue entry.
It seems that the Royal Family has this thing about photo ops with koalas. Harry and Meghan have done them, as have William and Kate. And here are Charles and Camilla, possibly with Camilla just informed that koalas carry chlamydia.
The Queen, on the other hand, in this image, perhaps wisely, has chosen to ignore the cute little things.