Alas, the day arrived! My entire class was anxiously counting down the days until we were able to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We were all dreaming of finally interacting with animals we never thought we would, animals that existed in storybooks and on our television screens, but never in our backyards.
It was a life changing experience. Although my koala whose name was Euphoria didn’t like me and they had to bring a second one for me to hold, in that moment when the koala was in my hands, it became much more than just a great Kodak moment. I felt an immediate connection with the animal. It wasn’t just a cute and cuddly animal that I was holding; it was something that needed my help. I realized that we need to do more than just pose with the animals or feel sorry that they’re endangered every now and then. We need to advocate for change… and advocate for change now.
Although koalas are not considered endangered, the population is in huge decline and under major threat because of urbanization and habitat destruction. In fact, there are less than 100,000 koalas remaining in the wild according to the Australian Koala Foundation. We need to support legislation that will help protect these animals and their habitats. As cities grow and the Australian landscape populates, the focus is all about the residents. Unfortunately, only the human residents are often remembered.
Much to my surprise, my favorite part about the sanctuary was not getting a photo with a koala or feeding a kangaroo or getting attacked by turkeys, it was their emphasis on conservation. The sanctuary puts on various shows, demonstrating different species of animals like birds, but they don’t just show off their beautiful colors or wingspan. They explain how humans are affecting them and how we can help protect them, which places the accountability of what is having to them on each of us.
Sanctuaries, like Lone Pine, should be supported not only because they educate, but also because they do not breed, buy, sell or trade animals. The animals in sanctuaries are not captured, but acquired only if they can no longer live in the wild on their own.
Thank you to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for teaching such invaluable lessons!