Indi is a cautious koala joey.
Baby koalas (called joeys) have to learn as much as they can from their mothers, in about six months. They have to learn how to choose the right tree, how to avoid trespassing on the homes of other wild koalas, how to stay safe from predators, how to eat leaves and climb trees.
Indi is 10 months old, but still travelling everywhere with her mother Kozo. She is heavy, and must be difficult for Kozo to carry as she climbs up and down trees. Look at the concentration on Kozo’s face in these pictures:
But koalas are good mothers. This is Kozo’s first experience as a mother, and she’s doing a great job.
Indi has already learnt the importance of checking a tree – by smell – for the recent presence of another koala. This is one of the most important lessons for a young koala – it can be dangerous to trespass on the tree of an adult. Watch:
Young koalas can be treated roughly by resident adults if they trespass. Adult koalas have worked hard to establish their home range, and they can’t let youngsters take over their food source. Adult koalas are usually much larger than 1 year old youngsters, and can inflict some painful damage if the joey doesn’t take the hint.
When Indi does become independent in a month or two, she will stay in her mother’s home range for a while – her mother will be more tolerant of her than unrelated adults might be.
Indi has also learnt the importance of listening to the sounds of the Bush. Watch her ears prick and swivel as she listens to the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screech.
Hearing and smell are a wild koala’s best senses. Sound can warn of danger – and many Australian birds have alarm calls for predators. Possibly koalas listen to and understand them.
Koalas certainly know the sounds of people walking and talking, and dogs – they are often seen to stare in the direction of a dog.
Female joeys like Indi probably also learn how to care for young from their own mother. It’s a lot to learn in six months.
Some koala joeys become independent at 9 or 10 months – just 3 or 4 months out of the pouch. Kozo’s mother Kiki was one of those – not only did she leave her mother, she moved 5km away! But she didn’t pass on her bravery to Kozo, who was still sharing a tree with KiKi when she was one year old!
Even now as a fully independent 3 year old, Kozo lives about 300metres from her mother.
Watching koalas in the wild, in nature, is fascinating. Every one is an individual, with their own personality and style. If you are fortunate enough, as we are, to be able to recognise individuals you can watch a real life drama every day – new babies, tensions between neighbours and power struggles.
Help us celebrate the wild ones on Wild Koala Day, by talking about them, learning about them and sharing memories of seeing them in a forest as a wild animal.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” 1968 Baba Dioum, Senegal