Last weekend I spent a few days with Mark (aka ‘mi güero’) in Brisbane. This city is the capital of the state of Queensland. One of the things that excited me most about this trip was that I was going to cuddle a koala! For Christmas, Mark gave me a koala cuddle as a present… literally.
In Queensland it is allowed to snuggle koalas, so mi güero organised that one of our trip days we would go to hug koalas. I loved the gift mi güero gave me, but I must accept that when I rationalised the idea I felt very anguished thinking that this experience might not be so pleasant for the koala. In the state of Victoria (where I live) it is illegal to hug koalas and to know this prohibition made me reconsider my desire to hug and play with a koala. I didn’t want that materialising my desire would meant to mistreat a living being.
Before our trip to Brisbane, I started investigating about this activity and its effects towards the koalas. Like everything in this life, it has its detractors and its supporters. Something that reassured me was knowing that the animal protection laws in Australia are very strict and those who perform this type of activities have to follow very strict guidelines to safeguard the integrity of the koalas. Koalas are very anxious and contact with humans can cause them lots of stress.
To avoid a negative impact in animals in this type of activities, it is important to do them with a responsible company. We did it in the Australia Zoo funded by the famous ‘Crocodile Hunter’, Steve Irwin. This place gave us a lot of confidence because the koalas are used to human contact since their birth. Furthermore, they do not spend more than 30 minutes in contact with visitors, they do not see more than 4 visitors a day and after a visit they have 48 hours without human contact (with the exception of their caregivers).
Hugging a koala bear is indescriptible. Mark and I spent 30 minutes with a two-year-old koala named Robe (each of us hold him for about 10 minutes only, though). Those minutes put me in contact with nature in a different way, sensitised me more about the care and conservation of animals, strengthened my ecological awareness and increased my desire to continue protecting the planet. But above all, having that ball of hair between my arms and stuck to my chest reminded me of the power that hugs have no matter who they come from. The five minutes I spent embracing Robe filled me with life and happiness. Hugging a koala was a very emotional experience and having shared it with Mark made it even more special.
The encounters with animals never cease to be controversial. The question of how much we are affecting the animals will always be present. For me this type of experiences are important because I learn more about my housemates in Mother Earth. These experiences remind me of my place in the world and the responsibilities that come from belonging to the human race. Having spent a few minutes with a koala gave me the opportunity to strengthen ties with my new homes (Australia and Mark) and my old homes (nature and my being). I never thought that this little cute ball of hair would give me so much. There is no doubt that nature is incredible.