eBook - July 2008 - eRetailers

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Embraces the story of the koala in Australian history.

The koala is both an Australian icon and an animal that has attained ‘flagship’ status around the world. Yet its history tells a different story. While the koala figured prominently in Aboriginal Dreaming and Creation stories, its presence was not recorded in Australia until 15 years after white settlement. Then it would figure as a scientific oddity, despatched to museums in Britain and Europe, a native animal driven increasingly from its habitat by tree felling and human settlement, and a subject of relentless hunting by trappers for its valuable fur. It was not until the late 1920s that slowly emerging protective legislation and the enterprise of private protectors came to its aid. + Full description

This book surveys the koala’s fascinating history, its evolutionary survival in Australia for over 30 million years, its strikingly adaptive physiognomy, its private life, and the strong cultural impact it has had through its rich fertilisation of Australian literature. The work also focuses on the complex problems of Australia’s national wildlife and conservation policies and the challenges surrounding the environmental, economic and social questions concerning koala management.

Koala embraces the story of this famous marsupial in an engaging historical narrative, extensively illustrated from widely sourced pictorial material.

- Short description


No longer available in a print edition.


"This small book provides a fascinating insight into the history of Australia, colonial exploitation, the ease with which factoids spread (the koala was thought to be a bear for decades, and is still widely referred to as a koala bear) and the tenacity with which pioneer natural historian stuck to unravelling the biology and ecology of this well-known animal."
Peter Thomas, Bulletin of the British Ecological Society, 2010, 41:2

"This book is a captivating narrative that documents the early history of the koala, the perceptions of early Australian settlers about this unique animal, and continues through to the current status of the koala. The accounts of the early encounters of white man with koalas and aboriginal history are what makes this book different from other books about the koala…the book is an enjoyable read and although focused on the koala, paints a colourful picture of the history of discovery of Australia’s other wildlife and habitats."
Desley Whisson, Victorian Natualist, February 2010

"This beautifully produced book - designed by James Kelly - is a joy to hold and read."
SAM Magazine, Summer 2009

"Koala, written by Moyal, a historian focusing on Australian science, is obviously a labor of love…"
J. Nabe, Choice Magazine, September 2009

"…Koala: a Historical Biography will sit happily beside Moyal's 2002 book Platypus: the Extraordinary Story of how a Curious Creature Baffled the World as a useful overview of our relationships with the unique fauna of Australia."
Nicholas Drayson, Historical Records of Austrlian Science, Vol. 20

"Moyal's coverage of the history of scientific understanding of the koala is insightful due to her grasp of the historic context."
Peter Menkhorst, Australian Book Review, November 2008

"This is exactly the sort of book I love and Canberra science historian Ann Moyal does it very well."
Ian Fraser, Recent Natural History Publications periodical #11, 2008


ePDF | July 2008
ISBN: 9780643096226
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


The land that waited
Science and art
Putting the animals on the map
The upside down world
The indigenous people
Field and metropolis
Fire, fur, and guns
The literary koala
Colin MacKenzie and the amazing koala shoulder
The new protectors
Being and doing
The survivor?
'Up close and personal’
A word on sources
Select bibliography


Ann Moyal is a leading historian of Australian science, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, winner of the Centenary Medal, and a Doctor of Letters of the ANU for her publications in the social history of Australian science. Her recent book Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World won international acclaim. In Koala she has been assisted in her unravelling of the diverse story by Michael Organ, archivist and bibliographer, of the University of Wollongong.