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Since being promoted to Senior Ranger, I have learnt a huge amount and have been privileged enough to work with some amazing people and animals! We have the opportunity to speak to hundreds of people every week and share not only our love for our furry, scaly and feathered friends, but also educate our guests about the current environmental threats that are directly affecting our stunning fauna. We also offer an opportunity to get close and personal with our lizards, snakes, birds, turtles and everyone’s favourite, our precious koalas.
Meet the koalas of Magnetic Island - Bungalow Bay YHA!
A day at Bungalow Bay for our koalas is a very cruisy one! Sleeping for 18 to 20 hours a day, we can’t help feeling jealous of their routine. They receive full room service every morning and of course, breakfast in bed too. Eucalyptus leaf is given from our very own plantation, which we share with the local Koala Hospital on the island. In the coming week, we will be planting 2000 more trees!
I believe that the close experience of koala cuddles allows people to have their hearts touched by this very special species, and in turn they may feel more inclined to take action to fundraise, research and spread awareness to actively help in to saving our koalas. We don’t allow any broken hearts in the park, so if holding a koala doesn’t fit a backpacker's budget, we also open up one of our koala's enclosure for guests to be able to grab a quick photo and to have a feel of that beautiful koala fur we all admire so much. In addition, our park is nice and personal, so seeing a koala is still possible from the outside of their enclosures as you pass by on your guided tour.
Cuddle a koala at Magnetic Island - Bungalow Bay YHA
I always ensure that guests coming in to our park understand what a great privilege it is to get to cuddle one of our koalas, as it is not allowed in other states. To limit the stress on the koalas, Queensland allows cuddles only under very strict protocol to ensure that koalas are rotated, and interaction time is always timed to ensure no koala works more than half an hour a day. Pretty sweet working day! Us rangers are trained to understand signs of stress, but being raised in captivity, they form a close bond with humans and are very used to being handled.
All of our koalas have their own personalities and we rangers are lucky enough to get to know them as unique little individuals! Pebbles loves a morning cuddle with a ranger and insists on one every day by following us around while we try to rake her enclosure. Claudia is our little supermodel koala who knows exactly where the camera is at all times and gives her best pose each time. Thor is our male koala and is an absolute sweetheart, enjoying a scratch from guests when we open up his enclosure for some interaction time.We have a very new member who has joined our koala team, little Cody the koala joey, who is just over a year old. He absolutely loves a good scratch from our rangers, sometimes even drifting off for a little koala nap during!
Meet Cody, the baby koala at Magnetic Island - Bungalow Bay YHA!
Now koalas being the highlight here, we get all sorts of questions about them! The most asked question is always “Are these little guys drunk off the eucalyptus?” I’ll clear this up now and confirm that the leaf has no intoxicants in it and the koalas are not hungover after a big night on the leaf! The eucalyptus leaf is very fibrous, very low nutritional content too, and contains toxins, like tannins, that are very hard to digest. This means that all their energy is being used to digest the leaf, hence all the sleeping! Their brain is also very small so they do not need to expend energy to run a big brain like ours. Don’t base their intelligence on the size of the brain though! If you ask me, these guys have it all worked out! No need to waste time on thoughts, they get to focus on the important things in life, sleeping and eating all day! Genius!
By giving people the opportunity to come to Bungalow Bay Koala Park and meet our koalas under trained supervision, we hope that they can then feel no need to disturb our wild koalas here. We offer education about the koalas on our tropical home of Magnetic Island, and encourage them to spread this awareness to those they see on the walking tracks, looking for a photo opportunity with wild koalas. It is illegal to touch a wild koala and we offer a place where guests can come and do that here with our trained rangers. Magnetic Island is home now to almost 1000 koalas, we want them to live as happily and as undisturbed as possible.
There is said to be less than 80,000 left in the wild, some organisations believing there are as little as 40,000 remaining. The status of koalas overall, have been listed as vulnerable. Many organisations are dedicated to pushing this status to a more critical claim. There are many factors that contribute to this status and sadly, many factors that have not been assessed adequately. We are at a very crucial time for saving the koala and it is up to us to make the most of it.
In a perfect world, koalas would live as they should be, in the wild and up high in our trees. They are faced now with problems like land configuration, deforestation, climate change, urbanisation and increase in disease and in the isolated populations, weakened genetics and insect attacks. This hugely alters the world of koalas, although there are many controversies about koalas in captivity, these establishments are present today to give guests the opportunity to learn about koalas and what they can do to save them. We also have old government policies in place that have not yet met the knowledge we have now on our environments, and our fragile ecosystems. We need completely refreshed development planning legislations in Australia.
I highly recommend you start by jumping online and visiting Save the Koala, there are lots of tips on this site to help you align your life to be positioned in the fight for our koalas. Drive slow on the roads and share that information with your travelling backpacker friends. If you find a koala injured, don’t try to handle it as you will both end up in worse states - contact a wildlife hospital or carer. Perhaps you have a bit of free time on the bus or train in your travels - you can Google local issues in the places you are passing. You can also write a letter to local MPs or to our Prime Minister. By putting pressure on these systems, they can realise sooner than later that we do care about our wildlife. It’s our individual actions that change things. What will your action be?
About Hayley: Hayley’s love for Australia’s native animals took her on many journeys around Australia, as well as volunteering at Ambu Ari Animal Sanctuary in Bolivia. After returning home, she found a niche in rehabilitation and chose to study wildlife veterinary nursing. After her first year of study, she applied for the ranger position at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, where she is now Senior Ranger.