The koala (Phascolarctos Cinereus) past, present and future*
R. K. DICKENS, M.V.Sc.,
The koala is Australia’s most admired native animal. Distinctive in habit and appearance, it holds a position of prime interest in zoos and sanctuaries, and overseas tourists often regard the seeing of a koala as one of the highlights of their Australian tour. The koala occupies a special niche on the zoological tree with an ancestry described by Troughton (1955) as “veiled in antiquity and a family all to itself”. Despite the unique character of the koala, very little scientific reference material is available on even basic physiological or pathological data. Eberhard (1972) said that “the koala remains one of the least well understood Australian marsupials”. Australian native animals in general have been neglected scientifically. In 1816 a French naturalist de Blainville gave the koala the generic name Phascolmctos from the Greek meaning leather pouch and a bear. The specific name cinereus meaning ashen grey in colour, was added by the German naturalist Goldfuss in 1817. The common name ‘koala’ is supposedly a derivation of an aboriginal word ‘koolah’ or ‘karbour’ meaning ‘does not drink water’.