Another terrible, terrible thing our species is wont to do is sexualize other animals. First, there was Shabani the gorilla. Then, there was this hench kangaroo – or roolander (sorry) – and New York’s “hot” duck. Now, we have the “World’s Sexiest Koala” because nothing is sacred.
The innocent koala was going about his day, munching on eucalyptus leaves and doing whatever it is that koalas do, when British photographer Ross Long snapped him in an unusual pose.
Long then posted a photo on Instagram with the caption “Draw me like one of your French girls, Jack”. It has since racked up more than 4,000 likes (not to mention quite a few headlines) and sparked an online debate: Is this koala hot or not?
The koala in question is called Rogue. Rogue is a 5-year-old resident of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia. Described as a “gentle giant”, he is the sanctuary’s largest male and is set to become a key player in the organization’s breeding program.
Speaking to People.com, Sarah Eccleston, mammal team leader and koala specialist at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, said Rogue is “probably the most laidback koala we have – very much your typical Aussie guy!”
Now we have your attention, here are some interesting facts about koalas, Australia’s cutest fluffballs.
1. Koalas are not bears, but marsupials
Often referred to as koala bears, these animals aren’t actually bears. Indeed, they are far more closely related to kangaroos and wallabies and any other marsupial species. Their nickname stems from their bear-like appearance and behavior, which confused English-speaking settlers back in the 18th century and has stuck with them since.
Like other marsupials, the koala joey is just centimeters long when it is first born – no bigger than a kidney bean. After birth, it climbs into its mother’s pouch, where it stays and grows for the next six months.
2. Koalas are extremely picky eaters
Koalas exist solely on a diet of eucalyptus leaves, eating up to a kilogram of the stuff a day. But it’s not just any eucalyptus. There are more than 700 species of eucalyptus, but koalas will only munch on 50.
When they find a tree they like, they will often store extra leaves in their cheeks to snack on later. Indeed, koalas consume so many eucalyptus leaves, they even take on the smell of the oil. It is evocative of cough drops, apparently.
3. Koalas are under threat
In 2015, the Queensland government upped their status to “vulnerable”. (The IUCN lists them as “vulnerable” and the US Fish & Wildlife Service puts them down as “threatened”.) Their declining numbers are the result of climate change, invasive species, and chlamydia, which (in koalas) can cause blindness, infertility, and soggy bottom disease.
Habitat loss is also a major issue, usually the result of logging, resource extraction, or building developments. Maintaining a large range for the animal is particularly important as each individual koala needs about 100 trees to itself.
4. Koalas have fingerprints
…and they are the only non-primate species who do.
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