I don’t know when I first saw a picture of a koala bear. As a child in a book, I’m sure. I do know that I have wanted to hold one for as long as I have a memory, and certainly long before I knew that a koala bear is not, in fact, a bear at all- but a marsupial. It was also before I knew that these cuddly creatures are actually not so cuddly. Or, at least that is what I had been told before I met Houdini
I met this little guy at the Billabong Sanctuary in Alligator Creek, Queensland, Australia- (http://www.billabongsanctuary.com.au/), and I was lucky enough to have been introduced to a friend of a friend who works there. Not only is Sera a handler of snakes and everything that is ‘reptile,’ she happened to be a fellow Texan who has been in Australia for a few years now. So, in the spirit of good ‘ol Texas hospitality, Sera gave me elite access for the day, affording me the chance to hold Houdini for more than a picture; we got to hang out for close to 20 minutes, me in awe of him the entire time.
He wore a musky cologne, eucalyptus scented that lingered in the oils of his fur and skin. I breathed in deeply the scent of him, wanting to hold this moment in my memory through all of my senses. He methodically chose each eucalpytus leaf, looking for the innermost leaves of the tree that are most tender and flavorful, and then grabbed it with his mouth and chewed it happily until he had worked his way through the entire bite, moving on to the next course with a jovial tug of his next leaf.
I was surprised by his level of comfort in my arms. He didn’t scramble like cats or dogs often do or cling to me in fear. He settled into my arms like I was his tree, his normal place of rest, and proceeded with his everyday activities of eating and overwhelming me with his charm. Koala (marsupials) sleep for 18-20 hours a day, as the eucalyptus are extremely low in nutrients and don’t provide much energy. I wished I could have stayed long enough for Houdini to drift to sleep in my arms.
I realize that not all Koalas are like him: Sera said he was especially cuddly, even for a domesticated koala that has been raised on the sanctuary. Houdini fulfilled the idea that I always held of what it would be like to hold one of these Aussie fur-balls, so for me, it will forever remain in my mind and heart that these are the world’s most adorable animals. Period.