The koala is probably the most recognised and loved symbol of Australia. A survey by the Australian Koala Foundation found that koalas rated the top tourist attraction in Australia, and estimated that the ‘koala experience’ contributed an unbelievable $1 billion to the tourism industry and added an estimated 10,000 jobs to the economy.
Did you know that:
- the closest relative to the koala is the wombat. Both have backwards facing pouches. That is great for the wombat joey as it does not get dirty when mum is digging. But the koala mum has to have strong pouch muscles so that the joey does not fall out
- koalas are not ‘drunk’ but they have a low energy lifestyle due to their low energy food
- in the early 1900s koalas were hunted for their skin and over 2 million were killed. To make sure that the species survived, 18 animals from Victoria were taken to Kangaroo Island in 1920
- koala is a Koori (Aboriginal) word and means ‘No drink’.
All is not that well however with our exceptional and irreplaceable icon. Drought, illness, human expansion and development in traditional koala habitat have taken their toll. Ask any local old-timer or the rangers at Hanging Rock and they will tell you that there used to be many more healthy koalas in our area – not just Newham and Hanging Rock but throughout the Macedon Ranges.
Current counting indicates a definite and disturbing decline in koala numbers in recent years in our area. Chopping down traditional koala ‘home trees’, domestic animals like dogs and cows, cars and increased human activity and housing developments have a negative impact on the koalas’ survival in the wild. We all have a role in helping to ensure the continued survival of the koala.