Most of the time, the ideas of human encroachment and the subsequent habitat losses that affect local wildlife can come off as abstract ideas. 'Well, sure, the grizzly bears used to live here,' we reason, 'but now I'm building my home here, so they can just lumber off to the next patch of woods.' All we can understand is that these animals live in the woods, and there are plenty of other woods around that they can live in. In other words, we can't truly understand an animal's sense of home.
Until along came this cute and probably confused little koala bear, who was found last month sitting in the middle of a clearcut forest in New South Wales, Australia. According to the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), the sub-adult male was searching for his home among the shredded remnants of what was once his corner of Vittoria State Forest.
"Koalas would have been moved out of their homes in preparation for planned logging activities," WIRES general manager Leanne Taylor told The Courier Mail. "It is common for koalas to roam back to their home range afterwards and become confused to find nothing there. A worker noticed a koala had been sitting stationary in broad daylight on top of wood piles for over an hour."
It's a rare that an animal can convey any sense of home—or, more accurately, loss of home—to humans. Even when we look at the lifeless scar of a clearcut forest, it takes a real leap of imagination to picture the living forest intact, and inhabited by real-life animals, as it certainly was. But to see this koala sitting in the middle of the clearcut, where he appears so foreign and out of place really crystallizes the idea of habitat loss. Because, well, this alien landscape was his home, and it's exactly where he belongs. And, what's more, he knows it.
Anyway, the story has something of a silver lining. The baffled koala was taken to a local vet where he was treated for an injured eye, then he was released in a different patch of forest where a colony of koalas was known to live. Check out the short video of his release:
An interesting post-script is that, in the end, forestry workers eventually found three more displaced koalas at the same clearcut site. They, too, were relocated.