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Handling Of Koalas By The Public

 
 
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Ara
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  #1
Handling Of Koalas By The Public
Old 29-12-2008

I would be interested to hear the opinions of people as to the handling of koalas by members of the public at zoos.

An invitation to the public to "have your photo taken holding a cute, cuddly koala" (for a fee) has been the (financial) making of many small zoos and animal parks in Australia. Nevertheless, opinions differ as to whether it is appropriate.

Koala holding, for want of a better term, is legal in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, but has been banned here in New South Wales for about 12 years now, on the grounds that it is too stressful for the animals. Members of the public can still be photographed with a koala, but standing beside it (with the koala on a low tree branch), and not holding it. The NSW tourism industry doesn't like the ban on holding, believing that it disadvantages NSW tourism.

What do you think?
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  #2
Old 29-12-2008

Koalas do stress easily and dont show many signs, but if the people running the handling are trained to recoginse signs of stress and koalas are rotated regularly, oh and willing i dont have a problem, but i do come from a Koala holding state
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  #3
Old 29-12-2008

I know that there are strict rules as to how many hours a specific koala can be held, how long they are allowed to be photographed, etc. It's tough to argue with the small wildlife parks who make a good chunk of their money on tourists paying $15-25 to hold koalas for a photograph. On one had it could be argued that it is a blatant exploitation of a wonderfully charismatic marsupial, and on the other hand it could be said that jobs are provided for, animals are well maintained, and many smaller wildlife parks thrive on the "koala holding business".
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  #4
Old 29-12-2008

Gorge wildife park dont even charge for you to have your photo taken, but you have ot have your own camera
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  #5
Old 29-12-2008

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Originally Posted by ZooYouthBen View Post
Koalas do stress easily and dont show many signs, but if the people running the handling are trained to recoginse signs of stress and koalas are rotated regularly,
One problem is, not all Koalas are happy with being handled. Some stress even if a keeper picks them up to move them to another tree. Others stress with the public after ten minutes of close contact.

And I've known hand-reared Koalas that are nick-named "Spawn of Satan" - not stressed by people at all, just enjoy sinking their teeth into your shoulder.

Rotating them regularly is great if you've got enough to rotate regularly.

At the time the ban was introduced Taronga Zoo's Koala Encounters (their photo op) allowed you to touch the koalas, but not hold them. When the ban became effective, Taronga banned touching them as well - you could stand beside the Koala and get very close but not make physical contact. Even this was enough to stress some Koalas.

Many people were upset by this policy, but others appreciated the animal's welfare although non-english speaking people were often confused (having seen ads of people holding them in tourist brochures for other places). I remember one little old Chinese lady that didn't speak English, stood beside the sleeping Koala to have her picture taken, wasn't happy about the animal being asleep so she reached into her bag and produced a rolled up newspaper and she proceeded to bash the Koala on the head with the paper to wake her up! It wasn't a thick newspaper and did no damage to the anaimal, who looked up to see what was going on went back to sleep again - I think the noise of us yelling at this lady and then ushering her out of the enclosure was probably more disturbing than the beating!

Koalas are pretty stupid. For some members of the public I would liken a Koala to a three year old child, intelligence-wise, and then given them this example to ponder: if you went to a supermarket and picked up a three yesar old child you had never seen before - took it out of it's stroller - so you could have your photo taken with it, then passed it around to more strangers for the same purpose, do you think it might start screaming it's lungs out?

As far as money goes, I can tell you there are LOTS of people, both Australians and tourists, who will pay to have there photo taken standing by a Koala. During January, on a sunny day, we could easily do 200 people an hour. If they had been holding the Koala, we'd have much less people through in that time (although, presumably, you'd be paying more to hold the animal). That's not to say there would be less people wanting to go through, there would be more - I remember many people (usually Americans) leaving the queue when they found they couldn't "hold a kayola bar".

As I said, standing beside a Koala and not touching it it still very popular with many people. The 'not holding' policy in NSW is a policy that considers the welfare of the animal. Tourism NSW should accept this fact and get on with their job. In fact, if they were sensible, they should actually promote the fact that NSW is the Koala Welfare State (or some similar such spin).

In principle, I agree with the policy because I know some facilities would put the almighty dollar before the animal's interests.



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  #6
Old 29-12-2008

I believe that in NSW even though you can't hold them they still need to be rotated regularly to prevent stress
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  #7
Old 31-12-2008

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Originally Posted by Hix View Post
As far as money goes, I can tell you there are LOTS of people, both Australians and tourists, who will pay to have there photo taken standing by a Koala
Replace "koala" with "cute juvenile primate, big cat etc.", and you will have a situation travellers to touristy places in Africa, Asia and partly Europe are still nowadays familiar with. Although the wellbeing of the koalas seems, at least according to the descriptions here, to be of much more concern in Australia, I nevertheless think it's a questionable practice. Who knows whether the particular koala is people-friendly and constantly "rotated" if not in the mood? Money can bring out the worst in people.

"Three year old child"? Either the toddlers you know are birdbrained, or your koalas are incredibly smart...
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  #8
Old 31-12-2008

Well zoos don't think twice about letting the public hold reptiles, so I don't see the problem with them letting them hold Koalas, providing it's done in a stress free way, and the specific animal doesn't mind.
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  #9
Old 31-12-2008

@ashley-h: Well, not all zoos offer reptile 'touch-on' experiences, and the ones doing it also limit the whole thing to letting some visitors touch some rather harmless species once a day for a short time- a practice I nevertheless also have second thoughts about (zoonosis!). At least I can't think of a zoo constantly tossing out King Kobras, Komodo Dragons and Snapping Turtles to the public-can you?
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  #10
Old 31-12-2008

Oh ssshhh, you know what I meant
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  #11
Old 31-12-2008

I feel the koalas should be handled as little as possible. I can't see a problem with the being used for patting and "stand by" interaction.
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  #12
Old 31-12-2008

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Originally Posted by Sun Wukong View Post
"Three year old child"? Either the toddlers you know are birdbrained, or your koalas are incredibly smart...
I know, but I use a 'three year old' child example (as opposed to a six month old child) because a three year old can walk and move around under it's on steam (like a Koala). I think they can relate the two a bit better.

Maybe they can't, but the analogy seemed to work.

AS for Reptiles, they are usually rotated too. And if the keeper sees even a harmless animal getting stressed, they are usually taken away from the public.



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