Kangaroos, koalas thrive on Australia's plants, climate

  • A koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in South Australia. The Australian wildfires pose a great threat to the local animals, but people from around the world have pitched in to help.

    A koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in South Australia. The Australian wildfires pose a great threat to the local animals, but people from around the world have pitched in to help. Associated Press

 
By Susan Miura
Here’s the scoop
Posted2/14/2020 6:00 AM

We've all heard the horrific stories emerging from Australia as wildfires devastated huge portions of the continent throughout December and January.

Reports of rescue operations for humans and animals alike have been prominent in the news and on social media. Ten-year-old Henry of Hoffman Estates, concerned about the kangaroos and koalas, turned to books at the Hoffman Estates Branch Library to learn more about these animals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He wondered why they live in only Australia, and whether some of the rescued animals could be brought here to the United States.

Henry's thoughtful suggestion for helping these unique creatures heal here in the U.S. would be great if we had the plants and climate they need to survive. No doubt they'd get a lot of love from their fans in the USA, but would they be happy and healthy? No. Even though their homeland has been ravaged by fire, they are better off staying put, where countless volunteers are working to save them.

This kangaroo interrupted a soccer match in Canberra, Australia, in 2018. Many Australian animals, like koalas and kangaroos, are marsupials, with pouches where they keep their babies. Both the animals and plants of Australia are often so specialized that they can't live anywhere else.
This kangaroo interrupted a soccer match in Canberra, Australia, in 2018. Many Australian animals, like koalas and kangaroos, are marsupials, with pouches where they keep their babies. Both the animals and plants of Australia are often so specialized that they can't live anywhere else. - Associated Press

Kangaroos and koalas are marsupials, unique animals with pouches in their bellies where their little ones can stay safe and warm. They both live primarily in Australia, but some kangaroos also live in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

When it comes to mealtime, it's all about the veggies for these furry friends from the "Land Down Under." The 60 species of kangaroos love to munch the grasses, flowers, leaves, ferns and mosses of their native country.

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The koalas are a bit more particular. They eat only from one kind of tree: the eucalyptus, also known as the gum tree. Now and then they may snack on another tree, but only those native to Australia. Since eucalyptus trees don't grow in the U.S., koalas would quickly starve to death here.

Henry's concern about the kangaroos and koalas is valid. Many have died, and many more are injured. The good news is, people from around the world are pitching in to help those who survived.

They are donating money, building shelters, feeding the animals, taking care of their wounds, and even sewing special pouches, mittens and blankets.

Their generosity and hard work are a shining light in this dark time for Australia.

• Resources: worldatlas.com, cnet.com, and "Kangaroos and Koalas" by Erin Pembrey Swan

What can you do?

Here are some actions you can take to help Australia's wildlife:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Donate to a reputable Australian wildlife fund.

• Stay informed about the crisis, and share factual information with others on social media. This will encourage others to donate and volunteer.

• Adopt a tree through World Wildlife Fund Australia or the Australian Koala Foundation to provide koalas with food.

• Volunteer with one of the many Australian wildlife organizations helping to feed, shelter and heal the animal fire victims.

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