This series of photos came from a Redland City Council Land for Wildlife member at Mt Cotton. They show a Koala eating some clay soil and then contorting itself to climb over a mesh wire fence.
According to John Callaghan, Koala Conservation Project Manager at Gold Coast City Council, Koalas are often reported to eat a small amount of soil, presumably for trace minerals. Eucalypt leaves are generally low in nutrients, especially in areas with poor soil and during drought. To compensate, Koalas eat dirt to obtain the required minerals.
A container of fresh clay-soil is generally provided in enclosures for captive Koalas.
Jenny Davis, Redland City Council Wildlife Officer further suggests that the digestion of dirt may help Koalas breakdown eucalypt leaves and may help in the detoxification process of the compounds contained within eucalypt leaves. But how do Koalas know which soils have the correct trace minerals? Given that Koalas have an excellent sense of smell, maybe they detect the minerals by sniffing the soil prior to eating.
These photographs reinforce the importance of wildlife friendly fencing and responsible pet ownership. A couple of branches or planks of wood positioned along either side of the fence would help the Koala move quickly over the fence. Additionally, trees planted strategically along the fence line would provide additional options for movement. These photos show how vulnerable this Koala would be if it were to encounter unrestrained dogs. Land for Wildlife landholders play a vital role in providing safe havens and corridors for wildlife.
Article by Gavin Hammermeister Land for Wildlife Extension Officer Redland City Council
Photographs by Heather Preston Land for Wildlife member, Mt Cotton