There are over 600 types of eucalypts in Australia, but koalas, Australian native animal, will only eat 40-50 varieties with only about 10 being preferred. The Eucalypt leaves are not only the source of food but also water for koalas. The koala is the only mammal, other than the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum, which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves.
Since European settlement, approximately 80% of Australia's eucalypt forests have been decimated. Of the remaining 20% almost none is protected and most occurs on privately-owned land. Unfortunately, this is where the majority of koalas are already living.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, Koalas are highly territorial. The individual members of Koala society maintain their own "home range" areas. If the available habitat were to be reduced in any way, the potential for survival of each individual would also be reduced.
The main causes of loss of habitat in Queensland include: landclearing, agriculture, housing, mining, forestry, factories and roads, increased disturbance by humans, injury or death from traffic injury or death from dogs and cats, effects of garden pesticides getting into waterways, increased competition for food and territory because of overcrowding, increased stress on animals, making them more susceptible to disease, bushfires.
This brings me to the remarkable recent story by the Guardian Australia.
It is about a koala named Timberwolf. Timberwolf was found clinging to the bottom of a car that travelled 88km North, before the Koala was discovered. The Koala and the car were from Maryborough, 255 kilometres north of Brisbane. Timberwolf was heading north. The family in the car did not know, they had a four year old Chlamydia infected koala passenger.
How despaired the poor Koala had to be to try immigrating for better land, health and life, heading North, possibly to the protected forests of Sunshine Coast or even further?
Staff at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital have treated the koala, naming him Timberwolf after their football team.
Why was the poor koala sick?
Scientists believe that the chlamydia organism has been occuring amongst koala populations for many years, and has acted as a natural population control in times of stress. The organism is harmless in populations with unlimited resources, but manifests in times of stress, such as happens when habitat is reduced. The weaker animals succumb to the disease, become sick, infertile or die, leaving the genetically stronger animals to continue breeding.
Research has shown that socially stable koala populations occur only when there are favourite tree species present. Even if a selection of tree species known to be used by koalas occurs within an area, the koala population will not use it unless one or two favourite species are available.
I think poor Chlamydia infected Timberwolf knew that he would die in Marybourough, if he stayed there.
Timberwolf took a brave and unusual move to survive. It reminds me the story of the refugees trying to get to Australia…
The question remains, will Timberwolf find his dream home, so he can survive?
Will he be released into the Sunshine Coast wilderness or detained and returned to Maryborough? Your thoughts?