Outing #39: You there! Koala Bear!

Ever since I started camping out here some sixteen months ago now, locals have told me stuff.

They’ve told be that psychopaths stalk the woods, that UFOs have been spotted out around Mount Solitary, I’ve heard stories about headless kangaroos, ghosts of those who’ve been violently murdered, they’ve even told me there are tribes of mountain cannibals lurking about the place: ferals who long ago developed a preference for human meat: all sneaking around out here snatching bushwalkers who won’t be missed.

According to locals they “know for a fact there are panthers out there”, yet ask them about Koalas and they’ll just deny there are any at all: citing such scientific-based reasoning as “There’s not enough trees they like or some shit.”


But, figuring any local who’s been here any length of time must know a thing or two, I’ve flat-out just not bothered to look for a Koala Bear in the entire time I’ve been out here. I look for Wallabies, Lyrebirds, Snakes, Lizards and other reptiles and yet – other than the occasional very strange, WTF-is-that kinda bugs I’ll find here and there – I don’t see too many animals I haven’t seen plenty of times already.

Imagine my surprise then as I’m walking through the bush leaving my camp – carefully following the animal tracks so as not to make any noise – when to my right I hear the crunching and rustling of dried leaves.

Straight away my first thought was “Lace Monitor”, since they’re none to concerned about being quiet when they’re stomping through the bush, but as soon as I turn my head to locate the source of the sound I see something on the ground that’s light grey.. light grey and furry..

Light grey, furry and as big as a dog.

“Can’t be a possum”, I think to myself as it begins climbing the tree it’s standing near, giving me a proper look at it, “what..?”

DING! The light-bulb of recognition flicks on.


Immediately regretting leaving my camera in the tent I realize my phone will have to do and so I pull it out, swipe the lock screen and open the camera. By the time I had the phone’s camera aimed in that general direction however, the Marsupial in question was already up to the first fork in the tree.

I sigh – spewin’ I didn’t just bring the camera along. I’ve not brought the camera when I go for water for a while now: since during winter the animals have been conspicuous by their absence I just haven’t seen much point.

Nonetheless, a shitty phone photo with even shittier digital zoom will have to just do, and I snap a few shitty pics. I was going to include one of those pics right under this paragraph but really, what’s the point.

Anyhoo, I’m so excited to see one of these shy, elusive koala for the first time I instantly post to Facebook and upload the photo, then stare at the animal a bit more, before continuing my walk to the creek to fill my plastic juice bottles.

The creek was it’s usual yawn-fest: water, birds, whatever.

Fast forward another forty minutes and I’ve filled the bottles and am in a minor hurry to get back to camp, though not because of any Koala. Although I’d hung my food-filled pack from a tree, Broeski’s been around a lately and I don’t relish returning to find my tent torn half to shreds again, so I pick up the pace a bit.

Walking back through the bush towards my camp I keep an eye out for the tree our koala was in when I left, even though I am almost certain he would’ve moved somewhere to hide by now but nope; I see the tree come into view and there’s the koala still sitting right in the fork.

Nice as you please.

Logically enough, I figure since he hasn’t moved more than a foot in the forty minutes I’ve been at the creek, it’s unlikely he’ll be racing off to attend any important koala matters within the next few minutes, and so I hurry back to the tent to grab the camera so I get get some not-do-shit photos before the animal does finally leave.

At the tent, I’m relieved to see no goannas have sliced it to ribbons, put the water inside, grab the camera then zip the door back up and start walking back to that tree.

Anyway here are the photos.

They’re taken with an actual camera, though I did enable the extended digital zoom for some of the face-shots so they are a bit smudgy. Still, they’re a lot better than the dogs-breakfast of a camera the phone is equipped with.

A fair-dinkum, 100% wild Koala Bear.

A fair-dinkum, 100% wild Koala Bear.


…still not doing much of anything


That’s right: optical zoom gets the job done yet again.

There’s not a lot of captions you can add about an animal that just sits there in the fork of a tree and does fuck all; as you can see they’re not the world’s most energetic animal, and these are no action shots, but the photo below should cast a light on why people so seldom glimpse a Koala when they come out into the Australian bush: like, newsflash; they don’t want to be seen – certainly not by scary apex carnivores like you or I.

Behold, an un-zoomed photo…

Sitting up there in his tree, making no noise at all, our Koala-dood is almost invisible: hence the rarity of sightings.

Sitting up there in his tree, making no noise at all, our Koala-dood is almost invisible: hence the rarity of sightings.

Fuck though, considering the leap in quality between a phone-camera and a little Nikon compact, imagine the photos I could take with a good quality DSLR camera with equally good quality telephoto and macro lenses: You’d be able to see the pattern of the Koalas irises.

Even if someone offered me such a camera free though – which is unlikely to happen I realize – the bulk and weight of the camera *plus* the lenses would be pretty, well pretty ‘hmmm’.

As an aside, to lend connect to the gravity of seeing a Koala in the wild, here are some links:

ARTICLE: University of Sydney: First Koala sighed in 70 years

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2 thoughts on “Outing #39: You there! Koala Bear!

  • tarenna says:

    Yes – this is a very significant observation. Most of the koalas around the Blue Mts live in the shale and basalt country to the north and north east of where you are..

    • Listening to its gurgling, belching noises scattered throughout the night I first figured it had to be a wild pig I was hearing, then – knowing how much noise a relatively tiny possum can make – I pondered whether it might be a Wallaby or Wombat making those god-awful noises.

      For weeks this grunting was going on, every other night, and they sounded very close to the tent indeed. I tried looking around outside with the head-torch but the bush is just too thick to see; after 10-20 meters all you see is blackness.

      Then, the night after spotting said koala, I hear the noises again but this time I figured, “Battery be damned, I’ll Google some mating sounds”

      First search I did – “koala mating call” – spat-out a one-minute video of a Koala in a zoo making the same horrid noises I’d been hearing. Course, the captive zoo Koala was going at it in the day, whereas this wild one only makes sounds at night.

      Haven’t heard him again for a week or so now either so maybe mating is over.

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