May 15, 2019

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Should you hold a koala in Australia?

As you can probably guess by this picture, yes, I held a koala in Australia. Let me explain my reasoning for why I decided to hold a koala in Australia.

For as long as I can possibly remember, Australia has been the #1 country that I have wanted to travel to. It has beautiful beaches, incredible weather, the Australian accent is probably my favorite accent in the world, and they have kangaroos. Yes, I said kangaroos, not koalas. Koalas weren’t even on my radar before traveling to Australia. When I thought of an animal that I wanted to see in Australia, it was the kangaroo. Maybe I live under a rock, but I had never even heard of holding a koala until I was in Australia.

Why did I want to hold a koala?

I wasn’t in Australia very long though before I realized how absolutely adorable koalas are. One of the first things that I did on my trip was to take a tour down the Great Ocean Road. One of the stops on the tour was a random side road where a few wild koalas are normally hanging out. I saw three of them on that road, but they were all high up in the trees.

Brisbane was my next stop after Melbourne. There is a koala sanctuary in Brisbane called Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. After seeing the koalas and learning so much about them from tour guides, I knew that I wanted to visit this sanctuary to see them up close.

The koala sanctuary has over 130 koalas and several other animals that you can see. There are various activities throughout the day where you can interact with the animals at the sanctuary, not only koalas. Because this post is about koalas, I am just going to focus on them. Twice a day, there is a 30 minute period where you can ‘meet a koala’ for free. A koala handler is holding the koala. People walk up and pet the koala just long enough to snap a picture before moving on to the next person. You cannot hold a koala during this time period. They also have a koala hold only once a day. This is where you can pay to hold a koala for around a minute and take a few pictures.

I did a quick Google search to see if holding a koala was ethical. The few articles that I did read basically said that it wasn’t unethical to hold a koala. After very limited research, I decided that I would go ahead and hold the koala.

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Should you hold a koala in Australia?

So, should you hold a koala in Australia?

Holding a koala in Australia is highly regulated. It is illegal to hold a koala in every state except for Queensland. Each koala is only allowed to ‘work’ for 30 minutes a day, and a koala is never used 2 days in a row. I can attest to the fact that they are very strict about that 30-minute rule. I was with my mom, my dad, and my sister at the koala sanctuary. Me, my mom, and my sister held the koala first. Before my dad was able to hold a koala, we were told that we had to wait a few minutes. This was because the koala that my sister, my mom, and I held had hit his 30minute mark. They got a different koala for my dad to hold and take a picture with.

They also don’t let you move while you are holding the koala. You lock your fingers together and place your hands near where your belly button is. They place the koala into your hands and are feeding the koalas literally the entire time. At one point, the koala’s nails got stuck in my hair. I moved one of my hands to get his paw out, and the koala’s handler told me to put my hand back and she would do it.

Is it ethical to hold a koala?

This is going to seem slightly off-topic but stick with me for a second. I spent a month volunteering with elephants in South Africa 2 years ago. One thing that I learned while I was there is that it is now getting to a point where it is better for an elephant to be in captivity than to be in wild due to poachers and loss of wildland. It costs a lot of money to take care of elephants in captivity, and, although ideal, not enough people are giving money to sanctuaries to cover these costs. A lot of sanctuaries are having to turn to tourist attractions to make enough money to help the animals.

It is a similar situation with koalas. While koalas are not officially on the endangered species list, the koala population is steadily decreasing for various reasons. With the destruction that the human species is doing to wild animals, if we want these animals to stick around, it is our job to provide them with an environment to do so. This could be through donating to a sanctuary, visiting a sanctuary, or possibly holding a koala that uses the money made to care for the animal.

Do you hurt the koala?

The actual holding of the koala is probably not for the best though. A lot of businesses claim that a koala being held for 30 minutes every other day has little to no effect on its well being. Even if this is true, the animal is being used for our entertainment and our enjoyment. A koala is not meant to be passed from stranger to stranger with a flashing camera in its face. While I don’t think that these animals are being abused, it is probably still best if they aren’t being held. I am stuck in the grey area of it not being the best but is also benefitting the koala in the end by the money that is being made that will go back to the koalas. If I could go back and make my decision again, I honestly don’t know what I would choose.

What do you think? Should you hold a koala in Australia?

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    The Vegan Abroad

    Hi, I'm Haley! I hope this blog will inspire, encourage, and guide you on how to travel the world as a vegan.

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