5 Amazing Facts about Koala Joeys

1. Baby koalas are called Joeys. All marsupial babies are called joeys – kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, tasmanian devils, possums & bilbys. The meaning/origin is unknown – it’s possibly just a diminutive used at that time for any small animal. Joey as a baby marsupial was first recorded in use in 1839.

The use of the word joey may have started with the word being applied for a British fourpenny coin. Politician Joseph Hume promoted the use of the fourpenny, thus the coin developed the slang name joey after him.

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2. The first time you see a koala joey it is already 6 months old. Koala joeys are born as tiny naked creatures that don’t look anything like a koala. They move straight into the pouch, and remain unseen until they emerge at around 6 months old.

Actual emergence takes time. The joey first pokes his head out of the pouch at 5.5 months, and fully emerges at 6 to 7 months. By 8 to 9 months the joey becomes too large to get into the pouch, and spends all his time on his mother’s belly or back.

3. Koalas invented pro-biotics. Koala joeys eat ‘pap’ – a special substance produced by their mother that looks like poo and acts like a probiotic. It contains gut flora that the joey needs to process eucalyptus leaves. The mother koala produces it from her caecum (a special chamber in her large intestine) and delivers it from her cloaca, so though it looks a bit like poo, its not.

Pap is absolutely essential to a koala’s health. Wildlife Carers with orphaned koala joeys will frequently ask the wildlife care community for a postal delivery of pap from a koala mother – any koala mother will do, the closer the better but any is better than none. Imagine receiving that package of squishy green slurry in the mail!

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4. Koala joeys are born out of their mother’s central vagina. Female koalas have three vaginas.

Why? Its complicated, and deserves a complete blog on the subject. Suffice to say that the two lateral (side) vaginae are for the passage of sperm to the uteri, and the median (central) vagina is for birth.

5. Koala joeys are born high in a tree. There is no danger of them falling to the ground – they are so tiny they get trapped in their mother’s fur. At birth a koala joey weighs only 1 gram – as much as a single sultana/raisin – and is only 2cm long.

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It’s Koala Joey Season in the state of Victoria right now. All over the state wild koalas can be seen with joeys – hotspots are The You Yangs near Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road and Raymond Island, East Gippsland.

Echidna Walkabout runs the following tours to see koalas in the wild – with a high chance of seeing koala joeys each year from September to November:

Wildlife Journey 4 days

Great Ocean Road 3 days

Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD 1 day

For more information contact:

Janine Duffy

janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

T: +61 (0)3 9646 8249

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours & Koala Clancy Foundation

http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au http://koalaclancyfoundation.org.au

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One Echidna, Two Echidna, Three Echidna…

Seeing one wild Echidna is special. Seeing five in one day is extraordinary!

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Echidnas are one of the world’s oldest mammals. They lay eggs, but yes, they are still mammals because they have hair and feed their young on milk. With the Platypus, echidnas are the only mammals of their type – Monotremes – a group only found in Australia & New Guinea. They are ancient, and have survived massive changes in their world since they evolved 15 million years ago.

East Gippsland, the south-eastern corner of the continent of Australia, is one of their strongholds. There are few people, roads and cars over there, and the natural environment is in good shape. Echidnas eat insects, and need a flourishing, diverse insect population. Invertebrates are a sign of good health in an ecosystem – so echidnas are abundant where the environment is healthy.ECHIDNA161113p06phlowrestext

This day we were on Raymond Island looking out across the ‘lake’, part of the great estuary of the LaTrobe River. One guest wasn’t looking at the water though – his attention was caught by a movement in the grass. He had absolutely no idea what it was. Brown and gold, like a boulder but spiky, and moving! It was our first echidna!

She was happily foraging, and paid little attention to us. In hushed, frantic whispers I got everyone together downwind and gave them an ‘Echidna Briefing’: stay still, stay quiet, reduce vibrations on the ground (that’s the first thing an echidna notices) and if the echidna approaches DO NOT MOVE YOUR FEET.

She came towards us. We all froze. She stopped, rushed over to a log. She came out, came towards us again. By this time we were barely breathing. She approached, closer, closer, then to our amazement, brushed by one man’s foot. Wow!!

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The echidna ambled off into the bush, giving us several more pictures and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Satisfied, we walked back towards our vehicle. Rainbow Lorikeets screeched, koalas bellowed, Bronzewings ‘oooommmed’, pelicans circled low over our heads. A pair of Eastern Rosellas were found feeding in the grass. They weren’t the only creatures in that grass – there was another Echidna!!

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The second one was larger than the first, and he was out in the open on a lawn. Completely unconcerned. Cameras snapping madly, we approached a little and then waited in formation to see what this echidna would do. Sure enough, he approached the same man who had been touched by the first echidna. We were starting to wonder about this man’s aftershave – was it echidna pheromone perhaps? Echidna 2 went right up to his feet, sniffed at his shoes, and then went on his way. Amazing!!

Before we could high 5, another echidna was spotted! In the bush on the edge of the lawn. A huge one! For the next 10 minutes we just couldn’t leave. It was so entertaining.

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Echidnas are fun to watch. They have a distinctive short-legged waddle that is impossibly cute. They will go over, under or through any obstacle like a mini tractor – nothing is too difficult!  Check out the video on YouTube

We drove onto the Raymond Island ferry for the short trip to dinner at Lake Tyers Beach. But the Echidnas of East Gippsland hadn’t finished with us yet. We saw two more on the roadside along the way!

A five Echidna day!

We can’t promise that this will happen all the time, but something amazing happens on every Wildlife Conservation Journey.  Join us, anytime from September to May…

Summer in Australia’s wildlife hotspot

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For a Guide, some trips last in the memory with a smile. Early February’s bright sunny Wildlife Journey was one of those. I shared it with 4 wonderful people who brought the best of their cultures with them: 2 enthusiastic, warm, open-hearted Americans, and 2 funny, subtle, gentle Brits. They approached every adventure with williingness, and enjoyed every bird, butterfly and lizard as much as the koalas, kangaroos and wallabies (or almost, anyway!)

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Our 4 day Wildlife Journey travels to East Gippsland – one of Australia’s wildlife hotspots. The Snowy River forms a rough western border, the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Southern Ocean to the south and the New South Wales highlands to the north. In a region that makes up only 4% of Victoria’s land live nearly half Australia’s bird species, 60% of our large mammals and a stack of reptiles, frogs and butterflies.

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The highlights were the wild koalas and kangaroos on the first day at Raymond Island, a small island in The Lakes National Park near Paynesville. It’s a fantastic spot for wildlife generally, partly due to the attitude of the few human residents of the island – they are a very pro-wildlife lot!

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For me, the great highlight was a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes on the Mooresford Track in the Snowy River National Park on the second day. I hadn’t seen a White-bellied since Darwin, NT in 2011 and that’s a very long way away from East Gippsland. White-bellieds are occasional visitors to Victoria, particularly to the dry forests of the north. One bird was the very distinctive and beautiful dark morph, which I had only seen once before.

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A very cheeky Goanna (Lace Monitor) made our lunchtime very entertaining by prowling around our table hoping for a tidbit. They are magnificent creatures. Big ones get to 2.5metres, but they’re not dangerous to people. This one was smaller, maybe 1.5m.

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As a finale to a great trip, we enjoyed sundowners and dinner while the sun set over the Southern Ocean.

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Rainbows everywhere!

Imagine a rowdy party. Shrill squawks and sudden laughter, bright colours, lots of movement.  That is the scene we stepped into on the Wildlife Conservation Journey last week.  It wasn’t people having the party, it was the lorikeets!

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Why the party?  The huge Banksia flowers were full of sweet nectar, and the Rainbow Lorikeets eat nothing but.  Banksia flowers are, to them, like chocolate fountains to us – impossible to resist.

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Of course, if you eat too much sugar there’s always one consequence – hyperactivity!  Lorikeets eat and fly and squeal, eat and fly and squeal at a decibel limit that is almost painful, just because they can.  They are full of life and energy.  It is infectious.  Watching them makes one want to run and jump for joy.  Watch them here: http://youtu.be/QbTNWhdAaXc

Rainbows are the biggest and noisiest of our lorikeets.  Australia has many others too, smaller, but similarly hyper.  Despite their brilliant colours, they can be hard to see in the eucalyptus leaves.  For some reason (I think it’s because of the very clean white light of Australia) a full colour palate disguises our treetop birds.  Splashes of red, yellow and blue ripple through the leaves and branchlets of gum-trees, concealing the bright little birds feedling within.

Rainbow Lorikeets live right along the north, east and south coasts of Australia.  We see a lot of them on our Wildlife Conservation Journey and Croajingolong Journey.  Come and see them soon!

The Friday Five: great outdoor things to do this week… 10 August 2012

1. The Savannah Walkabout – one day Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD guided tour!  This amazing tour showcases the icons of Australia – Koalas and Kangaroos in their natural habitats. At this time of year the roos are really active and breeding, so its pretty exciting.  It’s for small groups (2 to 8 passengers only) so it’s really interactive.  Great for kids, international visitors and locals.  Go to http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/en/tours/savannah for more details.

2. Westgate Park, just near the West Gate bridge. An easy walk from the Docklands along the Yarra River, this beautiful park is an example of what a dedicated group of volunteers can do with an old unloved quarry. You can now walk through River Red Gum woodlands, past lakes and wetlands, have a picnic, a run or a cycle and see some wonderful birds.  Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters are still in residence and fill the bush with their liquid notes.  Watch out for Great Egrets, tiny Black-fronted Dotterels and beautiful little diving Grebes – both Australasian and Hoary-headed.  You will usually find some volunteers working in the park and they are so helpful. Go to: http://www.westgatepark.org/

3. Raymond Island, East Gippsland.  Near Paynesville, in the Lakes National Park area, is a island sanctuary for wildlife. Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Echidnas, Tawny Frogmouths, parrots and lots of other birds live wild on the island.  The human inhabitants love their wildlife, and the wildlife knows it – they don’t seem as scared of humans here as in other places. Winter is a great time to be here.  There’s very few people around, but everything is open.  My tip – stay 2 nights at one of the lovely accommodation options.  Take an early morning birdwatching walk, followed by a short trip on the ferry to Paynesville, a long, lazy breakfast, then back to Raymond for an afternoon nap! When you’re refreshed get out again to search for koalas and kangaroos in the late afternoon sunshine, but make sure you’re back near the ferry to watch out for dolphins as they come in at dusk.

4. Melbourne Sports Tours. Sport is just such a part of Melbourne.  I’m not a huge fan of TV sport, but even I get excited by the buzz around the MCG on a Footy night.  The crowds are fascinating, friendly and fun.  I love just driving or walking past it, and savouring the rivalry/camaraderie of it all.  Whether you’re a local or a visitor, you should check out these tours.  You’ll learn something, have a ball, and share the day or evening with a guide who is passionate about sport and Melbourne.  Go to: http://www.melbournesportstours.com.au/index.html

5. St Kilda Botanical Gardens.  This is my latest discovery.   A tip from a young birdwatcher sent me there in search of a rare little bird called a Pink Robin.  I found her, but I also enjoyed the whole park experience enormously.  They have patches of beautiful native bush, a tranquil rose garden, a pond.  There is a friendly and welcoming EcoCentre in one corner – walk in anytime from 9 to 5 to find information about the area, terrific books to buy, eco-friendly products.  Go to: http://www.foskbg.org.au/