We went to a birthday party recently with the ‘zoo that comes to you’. Rather impressive all told. In their friend’s living room the children got to see and touch and learn about a whole lot of Australian animals… not least of which was a koala.
They learned all sorts of things about all the animals. They even got to cuddle a koala. And they learnt one very good reason to be really glad that they are not koalas, after all.
I totally see the appeal of the baby koala and why they thought being one might be a good idea. Koalas are cute and cuddly… just like a teddy bear. That is why some people call them koala ‘bears’. It’s a misnomer - they are not bears at all, but marsupials.
And the life of a baby koala seems pretty OK…. Koalas sleep for 18-20 hours every day and spend the rest of the time eating. They live in trees - they even sleep in trees (this holds enormous appeal to those under 8!) When they are hungry the trees they live in provide all the food they want, ready to hand. They don’t usually need to drink much either as the leaves they consume provide significant moisture for them.
A baby koala is carried by the mother, tucked in her cosy pouch for about 6 months. They also ride on mummy koala’s back or abdomen. The baby koala stays with mum for 1-3 years. The easy life. All rather sweet.
But… and for my children it is a rather big ‘but’…
Gumleaves are toxic to most animals, including a baby koala. When they begin weaning off their mother’s milk, their digestive systems are not yet mature enough to tolerate the gum leaves. So instead they get to eat their mothers poop…
Yes, I’m afraid so. It is called ‘pap’ and it is a special form of predigested gumleaves made just for the little joey.
This does not comfort my children.
The pap is a specialised form of the mother’s droppings that is soft and runny. It allows the mother to pass on to the baby koala (joey) special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for it to be able to digest the gumleaves. The joey will feed on this for a few weeks, just before it comes out of the pouch at about 6 or 7 months of age.
So maybe my children don't get to sit about in trees all day sleeping and eating like koalas do. But they haven't complained quite so much about my dinner menu recently either…
Thanks, Zoo that comes to you…. I’m calling that a parenting win.