Australia in Color (Part I)

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

We visited Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve while in Canberra, and during our hunt for platypodes, this guy settled on a log and struck a majestic pose.  I think it’s a pied cormorant, which has to dry its wings after a dip in the water.

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Still at Tidbinbilla, I got my first glimpse of a koala.  They sleep 18-20 hours per day, and are nocturnal, so they tend to look a bit grumpy when photographed.  I like to think this koala is smiling just a bit, though.

Koalas…one of the few things that can make both Obama and Putin smile.  Those photos probably were taken before the world leaders found out about the koala chlamydia epidemic.

How the heck does something as lethargic an un-promiscuous as a koala come down with STD’s?

The answer lies in koala conservation methods.  Conservation of threatened animals is often divided by region: for example, the koalas in one eucalyptus reserve are managed by a koala sanctuary; another may be managed by a national park.  This seems like an effective solution to conservation, until you consider the issues of habitat loss and fragmentation.

Picture a large eucalyptus forest.  Every other tree contains a koala (that’s a bit optimistic, but bear with me). Each koala can choose a mate from the entire forest’s worth of koalas.  That’s a lot of options, and a big gene pool.

Now cut down half the trees in this forest.  Every remaining tree now has a koala in it.  Koalas eat one thing: eucalyptus leaves.  These leaves have very little nutrition, so a koala has to eat about a pound of leaves per day to stay alive.  One tree isn’t enough.  So, the number of koalas decreases.

Now put a road in the middle of this forest.  Anything that touches the asphalt becomes roadkill.  So, your one population of koalas has been split in half.  That decreases the number of available mates.  The koalas then do a reenactment of the Lannister family’s mating habits, have inbred babies, and create a koala population that has weaker immune systems.  Diseases that are naturally present in koalas become more dangerous, and possibly fatal.

So, by reducing and splitting koala habitats, the koala population tends to be less healthy, which opens the floodgates for diseases like chlamydia.

Koala on Magnetic Island

 

I found this koala on Magnetic Island, which contains one of Australia’s largest koala populations.  His fur is grayer and a bit thinner than his southern cousin (above), which could be an adaptation for the warmer tropical climate.

 

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While wandering through the rainforest near Malanda Falls, we came across some flowers crowning a tree trunk.  This species could be some kind of satinash, and its flowers can grow directly from the trunk (cauliflory) or from branches (ramiflory).

Bird in a Rainstorm

I found this bush turkey hiding under a leaf during a rainstorm in Daintree National Park.  He was right by the path, and I expected him to scamper, but I guess he liked his hideout so much that he tolerated my presence.  He kept much drier than I did.

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