Posted by: adventuressetravels | February 8, 2013

Drug-addled Drop Bears and Cuddly Koalas

With a burst of speed that would have made a sloth look like a sprinter, the little bear reached its arm forward to grab a tuft of leaves in front of him.  Painstakingly it drew its paw back to its mouth and chewed on its toxin-filled diet of eucalyptus.

After staying on a boat for weeks hiking up Magnetic Island’s dusty trails was just what I needed.   Not only was hiking through the woods and catching glimpses of stark cliffs gorgeous, but this was my chance to see koala bears in the wild.

00001416In the early 1900s there were millions of koalas in the wild, but by the 1920s these slow-moving creatures were hunted to the verge of extinction for their fur.  Habitat loss, dogs, traffic accidents have all contributed to bringing this animal to the verge of extinction.  Thanks to organizations like the Australian Koala Foundation the animals are no longer endangered but today there are only around 100,000 left in the wild.

But more than merely the cuddly animals I had thought of the as a child, koalas have a darker side.  Though they sleep around 18-hours a day, there is a theory that the sleep is in part due to their eucalyptus diet turning them into drug addicts.  Australians tried to convince me of this theory that the fuzzy creatures lived their lives in a drug-addled haze but I haven’t found any hard evidence to back this up.  In the hours they are awake though koalas can be quite aggressive with one another, viciously biting and scratching.  I can’t really picture the placid animals tussling, but it’s rumored to happen at night.

Perhaps this is where the drop bear myth originates from; a creature that Captain Nemo tried his best to convince me existed.  The drop bear is a koala that has had a bad eucalyptus “trip” and gone insane, dropping from trees to kill and devour innocent hikers.  Hiking in Magnetic Island I had to be careful, he warned me.  After all, it was prime drop bear territory.  Though almost every creature in Australia can kill you I was pretty sure koalas didn’t make an appearance on that list.

Regardless of the marsupials’ mean streak, I wanted to see one in the wild, so when we anchored off of Magnetic Island I was delighted.  After all:  it is one of the best places to see a koala in the wild.  If you want to you can even hold one at the koala sanctuary.  Unfortunately the sanctuary was closed when I went, closed and $21 just for entry.

00001420Still, I would rather see one in the wild.  And one would assume that would be easy if koalas were in the area.  After all: they move at a painstakingly slow pace and sleep for almost 80% of their time.  To my surprise the lethargy combined with their coats makes for surprisingly good camouflage.  Luckily I did get to see one and luckier still, the koala in question woke up for long enough to actually put on a show for me: going through the prodigious effort of eating a leaf.



  1. Don’t worry too much about drop bears. They won’t go anywhere near you if you just put a dab of Vegemite behind each ear.

    • at least you don’t have to put it on your upper lip. I think I’d rather deal with the drop bears 😉

  2. Eucalyptus oil, otoh, positively attracts them.

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