5 Things You Must Know about the KoalaAugust 07, 2014

Koala is an emblem of Australia, one of the many iconic images of the country. There's nothing more Oz than this creature, which tourists can take home (in the form of a souvenir soft toy). But there are some misconceptions about this animal.

This masurpial was all over the island, until their population was decimated due to hunting. Nowadays, urbanisation is its biggest threat. On August 6, 2009, a bushfire spread through South Australia and Victoria. Heatwave was the cause, prompting koalas to go down from the trees, their only habitat. One of those rescued became a news sensation after drinking water given to him by David Tree, a volunteer firefighter. (If you're not familiar with the animal's behaviour, then you missed out the obvious.) He was named Sam, who became a poster boy for the other koalas living precariously. But he didn't live long, as he was afflicted with chlamydia.

Many believe that koalas are like soft toys, which is misleading. Here are five things that they should know:

Koalas are far from affectionate. They scratch, even bite, but that's about it. If one is in the midst of Eucalypt woods, they'll fall from out of nowhere. They have that "I'm about to fall asleep" look, hinting its long sleeping hours due to their unique digestive system. It takes hours before the Eucalypt leaves are absorbed, and this is where they find common ground with the dogs.

They are endemic. Eucalypt trees are abundant in the coastal regions in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. This is where most koalas are found. This doesn't mean that they can't survive in other trees, as studies shown that they have preference to thirty flora speciess. But they lean towards the Eucalypt.

Koalas are part of popular culture. You're not from Oz if you haven't seen Blinky Bill. The animal is the official fauna symbol of Queensland. The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland is represented by this animal too. But it's their cuddly form, found in souvenir shops, that gives visitors an impression that the mammal is ubiquitous in this part of the world. (If they only know their diet.) Youngsters addicted to video games can indentify with the animal right away. (Koala Lumpur, anyone?)

They share a similar trait with kangaroos. Joey rings a bell in Down Under, but it doesn't mean that most Aussies are watching reruns of "Friends". It means a baby koala. The little one lives on the pouch, and when they're big enough, on the mother's back. This is where the similarity with the kangaroo ends.

Koalas aren't considered endangered species. Sam managed to live with people, and if not for the disease common among his kind, could have been around for many years. Except for him, koalas can't be domesticated because it tend to be picky.

You can't help staring at the koala soft toy, but nothing beats the real thing. So what do you like most about koalas?

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