A vacationing couple has captured the aww-inducing sight of a koala nonchalantly swimming across a river in Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
The video, filmed by Joe Wade and Jasmyn Geerssen during a 2016 kayaking trip but uploaded to Facebook yesterday, has elicited excited comments from viewers worldwide who, like the pair, had never witnessed a dog-paddling koala before.
“Have you ever seen a Koala swim?!” said the post on the couple’s travel blog page. “We hadn’t until we bumped into this little cutie having a cool off.”
One reason for the clip’s novelty? Koalas sleep for 18 hours a day (in trees) and spend most of the rest of their time munching on eucalyptus, mistletoe, and box leaves (clearly also in trees). This leaves little time to explore the waterways.
Yet when they need to travel, koalas are usually adept swimmers. At the end of the video, this particular koala can be seen emerging onto the opposite river bank and climbing back into its preferred arboreal environment.
Reports of drowned koalas surface regularly, notes the website News.com.au, yet these events occur mostly in backyard pools, not natural rivers and lakes. It seems that the 14-kilogram (30-pound) marsupials don’t know how to get out once they’ve gotten in. (In case you’re pondering this, yes, koalas are quite stupid.)
Another reason why even Australians like Wade and Geerssen are so enamored with the native creatures is because of their increasing rarity. Once abundant in forests along the entire west coast of the continent, koalas are now listed as a threatened species. First diminished in number due to fur hunters in the 1920s, koalas are currently in peril due to habitat loss and fragmentation from logging and urban sprawl.
Because koalas only eat low-calorie leaves from a handful of tree species (actively ignoring higher energy sources of nutrition such as fruit), they must forage in large forest areas to find sufficient amounts of food. Previously, suitable groves covered the entire west coast of the continent, and the animals had little difficulty locating new territories. Currently, however, pathways between the remaining intact forests are full of dangers including busy roads, aggressive dogs, and yes, the occasional inviting-yet-deadly suburban pool.
Sadly, the creatures are also battling a wide-scale chlamydia outbreak that wiped out a third of the population over the past 20 years and currently affects between 50 and 100 percent of wild koalas. But, in uplifting news, scientists have developed a vaccine that shows promise for slowing the pathogen’s spread to future generations.