Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Can Be Done with Extra Koalas?

I've been reading about the controversial Koala Cull.

Of course it's controversial. Koalas are adorable and a huge Australian symbol.

Besides that, though, was it the right thing to do?

I don't know. I kind of doubt it.

Or at least I'm leaning towards agreeing with the people who say there were alternatives.

Around 700 koalas were killed. The government says this was done, because otherwise they koalas would starve. Although koalas are rare in other areas of Australia. In Cape Otway, there are too many.

Would it have worked to send the koalas elsewhere? How about an area that has koalas, but not a lot of them? Of course it wouldn't be a good idea to send all 700 koalas to the new area. Then they'd just create a new over-populated area. But what if the 700 koalas were divided up and distributed?

You can't just send koalas to any old place. They have a specific diet—the eucalyptus leaves. Are there areas of Australia that have the eucalyptus trees, but no koalas?  I'm guessing there are.

There are eucalyptus trees in California? Why not create a population of koalas in California? Would that be bad?  I imagine it might devalue the koala as a mascot of Australia. But if that's the only reason not to do it? Well, it wouldn't be nice to kill koalas just to avoid that situation.

There's always a danger to releasing a foreign animal into an area. It could become an invasive species—mess up the local ecology. I have a hard time imagining that happening with the Koala, though.  They're not going to eat any of our native birds or insects. They're going to eat Eucalyptus leaves. I don't think other animals eat that. Or at least not many do. From what I remember learning, eucalyptus is hard for other animals to digest.

There might not be enough eucalyptus trees in California for 700 koalas, but maybe they could have taken a few.

Another option? How about zoos?  It's been a long time since our Fort Worth Zoo has had a koala. I'd love for them to have some again.  And no, we wouldn't have the space or the money to deal with 700 koalas, but there are a lot of zoos in America.  What if they each got a koala? And then there are zoos all over the world. Why not give them a koala as well?

I'd say sending wild koalas to zoos would be the least ideal alternate option, but it would have been better than killing them.

I'm now consulting Lord Wiki about eucalyptus trees. He's says there are eucalyptus trees all over the place—Europe, Africa, India, China, Middle East, etc.  Maybe we could have koalas all over the world.

Ah! It seems I was wrong about other animals not eating from the eucalyptus tree. First of all, some possums can eat the leaves. Then the flowers provide nutrients for pollinating animals like bees, birds, and bats. Some insects eat the leaves. Lord Wiki calls these insects pests. Okay. That might be true. Some animals in some situations are pests. But if these insects lose these leaves because koalas have eaten them all, they might seek food elsewhere.  And what if they eat all the leaves that another animal needs? A native animal.  Or what if the bugs starve and die because they can't find alternative food. And what if those bugs are food to native animals. I'm seeing that introducing koalas to a new country COULD create an ecological problem. It's not definitely the case. It could work out beautifully, but it does need to be looked at and considered from all angles.

Lord Wiki says, though, that in California, some people are angry about the eucalyptus trees being there. One of the reasons stated is that they don't support local wildlife.  The trees themselves are sometimes seen as an invasive species. I can see the point, but if they're already there...Would it hurt to bring in a few koalas?

Maybe they're the wrong eucalyptus trees, though.

Lord Wiki says it's the blue gum that's in California. Will Koalas eat that?

From what I'm seeing on Google, it seems this is not their favorite food to eat. I'm waiting for a PDF to load that will hopefully give me more information.

It has finally loaded!

The document is about the Australian Koala Foundation studying the use of blue gum plantations by koalas.

This is really long and complicated. I'm getting the idea, though, that the koalas can and will eat blue gum leaves; but they prefer other leaves.

Here we go. This will be easier for me to understand. The Australian Koala Foundation has a page more understandable to non-experts like me.

One of the things they list is what koalas need besides eucalyptus trees.  These are a) areas where rainfall exceeds 500 mm per year. California might qualify, but I have my doubts. I think they have drought problems there. b) The area has to be less than 1000 meters about sea level. c) temperature can't go above 40 degrees to often.

I'm not sure about California's height. There are many mountains there, but I think they have low areas as well.

As for temperature, I think California would qualify. I think the days there are usually mild and perfect—not too cold and not too hot.

Then the tree stuff gets complicated. If a tree isn't in the right location, it's nutrient content can be less ideal for the koala.

Koalas are very picky eaters.

I'm learning today that keeping them alive and healthy is no walk in the park.

But still.

I want to believe there are alternatives to killing them.

I think there ARE alternatives. They're just not easy and cheap ones.