We are on the Great Ocean Road and we are currently surrounded by koala’s! After over six months in Australia it has finally happened. Another one off our bucket list, two actually, as we did not eat one, nor do we intend to.
Staying at Bimbi park, a camp site in the middle of the Otway National Park, has given us close encounters with ‘active’ koala’s. It is great to be able to observe these cute, fluffy and very cuddly looking creatures. They are very curious and very willing to pose for the camera. Even though they do little more than eating leaves, scratching themselves, staring at us and an occasional jump to another branch.
Our closest encounter has been on the way to the toilet, without a camera of course. Luka and I came almost eye to eye with one that was reversing backwards down a tree. At the end of the branch it stopped and looked at us. We could only stand there, holding our breath, being bummed that I did not bring a camera. Until it got tired off looking at us and climbed back up into another branch. Stopping for a scratch or two along the way. Luka wrote an own blog post about Koala’s.
Most of the time koala’s are little dots sleeping in the tree. Digesting the leaves that they eat takes up a lot of their energy, so they sleep between 18 to 22 hours per day. They need this much sleep because eucalyptus leaves contain toxins, are very low in nutrition and high in fibrous matter, so they take a large amount of energy to digest.
How can you spot a koala?
Look for tourists gathering around a tree with their camera’s pointed up. Changes are big that they have spotted a sleeping koala high up in a tree:
At night you can hear them calling out. Koala’s make a very distinctive noise, almost like a pig. Not really a sound that I would expect from them.
The road towards the Cape Otway lighthouse just off the Great Ocean Road is packed with koala’s (and tourists looking at them). They are both hard to miss.
Camping under koala’s
At Bimbi Park we are literally camping under the koala’s:
What we immediately noticed when driving onto the camp site is that there are metal bands wrapped on the bottom of the tree. We did not know why that was, but found it out quickly.
They are trying to protect the trees from the koala’s. By putting metal bands around the tree, theoretically the koala’s can not climb the tree and eat the leaves. There are still koala’s in the tree, so it is not completely effective.
Koala’s were relocated from French Island to Cape Otway in the early 1980’s. With no major fires and no predators and predominantly Manna Gum trees (their favorite food source), numbers have increased dramatically.
The trees are now dying as a result of so many koala’s browsing them. Driving through the Great Otway, unfortunately this is also visible to us, as there are many area’s where dead trees are sticking out of the landscape. A sad sight.
It is great to be able to see koala’s in their natural environment. They are one of Australia’s symbols and very unique creatures. It makes me sad to read and see that they are destroying their own habitat due to overpopulation. Especially knowing that the government has declared them as vulnerable across Australia in 2012 and they are even critically endangered in parts of Queensland.
The people from the camp site are urging the government to reduce the number of koala’s by relocating them to other areas. The installing of metal bands on the trees is one of the ways the Bimbi Park is trying to preserve the trees. Next to that they are cooperating with university researchers to try and better understand the issues and solutions. And they are creating awareness for the tourists.
Once we get back we will definitely write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org as requested, to write him about our experience and how visible the threat already is, even for the untrained eye.