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Adored for its large fluffy ears, spoon-shaped nose and bright button eyes, the koala is universally recognised and revered as an Australian icon. But it hasn’t always been so. After coexisting successfully with Aborigines for thousands of years, the koala was considered sloth-like by the early Europeans and valued for little more than its fur, and by the early twentieth century millions of koalas had been hunted, driving the species to near-extinction.
Yet the koala is also one of the most well-adapted and resilient of Australia’s marsupials, described by some as a triumph of evolution. How does it survive, and thrive even, on such indigestible fare as eucalyptus leaves, laden as they are with enough toxic phenols to kill most other animals?
In this fascinating story of the koala, respected biologist and author Stephen Jackson examines not only the ecology, behaviour and history of this extraordinary animal, but also ongoing threats such as disease and habitat loss, and the controversial debate about how to best manage the populations of Australia’s favourite marsupial.