DECEMBER 2003/JANUARY 2004

MAMMAL

The Koala

Phascolarctos cinereus

The koala sleeps all day, waking from a series of naps to munch on eucalyptus leaves. Aboriginal Australians thought the koala was drunk because of the way it rocks on the tree branch, reclining way back and gulping for air. Today many say that the koala is permanently stoned.

In fact the koala has a bad diet of only eucalyptus leaves—poisonous to most animals and low in nutrition—and sleeps to conserve energy, appearing drowsy because of a slow metabolism. Koala is the aboriginal word for “no drink” because the eucalyptus trees provide sufficient hydration for the wooly animal.

Koalas live in eastern Australia; to spot them in the wild, one can go to Magnetic Island off the coast of Queensland. When passing another hiker on the Forts trail (the best koala-spotting hike), the etiquette is to offer a suggestion of where a koala can be found and hope the other hiker will reciprocate.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Malaika Costello-Dougherty

Malaika Costello-Dougherty is finishing her master’s in journalism at Medill and moving back to San Francisco. She is working on a book.

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