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Are koalas going extinct? Discover the study of how cattle in Australia affect koalas and how one experiment could save their numbers.

Are koalas going extinct? Everything to know about the new study

People have heard the saying “a bull in a china shop,” but recently, cows in Australia seem to be doing much more damage than just breaking teacups. 

There have been reports of cattle trampling and seriously injuring koalas, which has led experts to question why this is happening and how they can help the declining marsupial population. The initial answer may be simpler than experts think, and all it will take is an automated toy car and a stuffed koala.

The next best thing

Of course, live koalas couldn’t be used for this experiment, and experts would never want to do that anyway. Instead, Ph.D. candidate Alex Jiang created Kokonut, a remote control koala atop a remote control car. He also covered the toy in koala urine & feces, making it as real as he possibly can so the cows don’t know the difference.

“So far, this experiment is in its early stage,” Jiang said. “But what we found is that cattle behave differently towards the car with the koala model on top of it versus the car itself.”

In The Guardian’s video of Jiang and his experiment, it can easily be seen that Kokonut does affect the cattle, causing two cows to run off, but one of them stays behind and seems to size up the stuffed toy. It’s unknown whether any aggressiveness resulted from this interaction, but it could be an indicator of any stressors for the cows – enough for them to feel they have to kill.

Cows’ behaviors

Because the cattle are obviously reacting to Kokonut, this experiment is already headed in the right direction. Whether the reactions are positive or negative, there has to be a reason why the cows are hurting the koalas.

As the experiment continues – and it will for some time as it’s extremely new still – Jiang will study how Kokonut can trigger aggressive behavior in cows. Through this, he’ll also be able to tell the public if some cows are just more prone to this behavior than others.

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