On the ABC News last night I learned koalas are threatened with extinction in some Australian states. This is because of years of severe drought followed by the recent devastating bushfires. The news filled me with despair.
I have had several encounters with koalas in their natural habitat during my life. The last, and most memorable one, was a few years ago.
I was walking through the bush one quiet winter’s afternoon. It had rained recently and the bush had a soft, washed clean look. The vibrant green grass under foot was beaded with water droplets that glistened silver and the tree trunks glowed mellow and velvety in the soft grey light. There were no other people around.
A sudden thud put my senses on alert. I thought it was kangaroos and waited for the echoing thuds of a mob jumping off through the bush. Instead a koala with a baby on her back appeared. She lumbered across the track then, seeing me there, climbed up the nearest tree. It wasn’t the type of eucalypt she would feed on so when she was about a metre off the ground she paused and turned to look at me more closely.
For an extended moment we studied each other. Both mother and baby regarded me with soft dark eyes that seemed to absorb me into their mysterious consciousness.
Entranced I murmured to them then, being human, stepped nearer for a closer look. The mother koala took fright. She jumped down from the tree and lumbered off to find a more suitable tree with the baby clinging to her back. Not wanting to frighten them further I left her to it.
Back home I kept thinking of the encounter. In Scott Alexander King’s book “Animal Dreaming” I read:-
“It is believed that the Koala slips into an altered state of awareness after ingesting eucalyptus leaves… Whilst in this state, it is mused that it can enter other realms of reality, or journey deep within the inner landscape. Once there, it is thought that the Koala gathers knowledge and is able to offer healing in ways not considered physically possible in the tangible world. Koala also fosters the notion that, as spiritual beings, we inherently know the answers to all our questions, with the knowledge we seek stored within our consciousness… It embraces the inner journey to the core of the deepest self.”
In these uncertain times it seems to me the koala is asking us all to look deeply within and question our relationship to the natural world. In that bright gaze I sense a question:- Are we going to stand by and let the polar bear, the koala, the platypus and countless other life forms become extinct because we cannot break our dependence on fossil fuels?