Koala bears are not really bears. English settlers in the 18th century called them so because of their resemblance to bears. In fact, koalas are marsupials, a class of mammals that have a pouch to carry their newborns in, till they become fully mature. Their correct name is 'koalas'. As per this classification, they are more closely related to kangaroos than bears.
Though technically incorrect, the term 'koala bears' is still in use. At one time, these beautiful animals had become an endangered species. Hence, law prohibits it to be adopted as a pet by general public in Australia.
Can Koalas be Tamed?
Koala bears are one of the most adorable Australian animals. When associated with human beings, and when young, they are known to be tamed. In certain cases where the koala has been hand raised by human beings, they have turned out to be quite affectionate pets. These people tied a piece of fur to a pillow and placed it beside a joey (a baby koala) as a substitute for the mother. This trick seemed to work well with the baby. However, it is a known fact that human handling causes stress to koalas. In my personal opinion, this aspect clouds the fact that these animals can be tamed.
In many US states, laws prohibit owning wild animals as pets. As far as keeping koalas is considered, it is illegal to own one. In fact, Australia has banned the export of these animals that are native to the country, except in the case of zoos. Still, there are certain people who are trying to change the laws about pet adoption, as far as koalas are concerned. However, any legal changes allowing these animals to be kept as pets doesn't seem to be taking place anytime soon.
In Australia, the koala is a priority species, as far as conservation status assessment is concerned. It was hunted to near extinction for its fur. In fact, the koalas had been wiped out from South Australia in the 1920s. However, rehabilitation efforts have brought the species back in the state. As per the Australian government, the koala is not a threatened species, but the US government does list them as one.
There are some other practical difficulties that make koalas an unsuitable choice, when it comes to having them as pets.
They generally spend their waking hours eating. Their diet primarily consists of eucalyptus leaves. They can eat about 1 to 2 lbs of leaves everyday. Maintaining the supply of such large quantities of eucalyptus leaves is also a big issue. They also eat leaves of tea tree, wattle tree and paperback tree. Since their diet is high on toxic content, their metabolism is very low. Hence, they conserve energy by sleeping.
Some Facts about Koalas
If you are a koala enthusiast, there are certain facts that you should know.
- The origin of koalas is not certain. However, they are believed to be the descendents of wombats.
- There are differences in the scientific community, about the subspecies of koalas. Three different types are recognized on the basis of the region they are from, namely Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. A fourth variety, known as 'Golden Koala', is also seen.
- Koalas from New South Wales are larger, with a male weighing around 26 lbs and a female around 17.5 lbs. The koalas from Queensland, however, are smaller with males weighing around 14 lbs and females around 11 lbs.
- Female koalas have a pouch in which their young ones remains until maturity. Their pouch opens in the rear, and has a drawstring-like muscle that the mother can tighten when needed.
Koalas have unique dietary and physiological needs. Also, human handling causes them stress. So, it is better to leave them in the wild, amidst eucalyptus trees, which is their natural home. It is one thing to see this cuddly animal from a distance or in pictures, and another thing to have them as pets.