Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Koala Encounter

Caversham also has koalas. Although koala cuddling is legal in Western Australia, this particular park doesn’t allow it. You can, however, pet them, gently, on the flank, with the back of your hand.

I’m not sure why the petting protocol is so weirdly specific, but after the ranger’s spiel, I understood why we weren’t allowed to grab them and squeeze them as we pleased. It’s because koalas get so little nutrition from the only thing they can eat (eucalyptus leaves) that they spend 20 hours a day sleeping to conserve energy. The other four hours are spent binge eating. They’re busy little creatures, and don’t have much left for their fans.

Petting was nice, though. There were six or seven koalas in the enclosure, and the ranger pointed out the one on duty. You’re only allowed to touch one at a time, and the designated object of affection rotates every 15 minutes so no single koala gets too sleep deprived. The dopy, unnamed koala I got to stroke was very docile and very soft, and I could easily have lingered longer than 15 minutes if I weren’t worried that I would send it to the hospital.

(And no, to answer your question, they don’t let you give them water, even though it's all anyone has wanted to do since this picture came out. Apparently koalas normally get enough liquid from the leaves they eat, and rarely drink water.)

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