My children's reaction as they watched breakfast news this morning was probably echoed in every kitchen in the country, if not the world. "Aaaaah, they're so cute," they cooed, staring saucer-eyed at the television. "Can WE have one of those daddy?"
They were talking, of course, about the world's first test-tube koalas.
As you'll probably know, the trio of koalas are the result of an artificial insemination programme being run by an Australian university. Scientists there plan to build up a koala sperm bank (now there are three words I never thought I'd string together in a sentence) to help protect the dwindling species.
My problem this morning was this. I know a little about the koala. And they're reputation as the world's cuddliest creature is ill-deserved. For a start, koala babies don't just eat eucalyptus leaves - as is commonly thought. They also eat their mother's own faeces, which - whilst it helps their immune system - makes them rather unpleasant to be around. Second, koalas are notoriously promiscuous and prone to a number of sexually-transmitted diseases, including chlamydia. (Is it any wonder there's a need for a clean batch of sperm at the bank to preserve the randy blighters?) Third, they are lazy slobs. Koalas spend most of their day asleep, and even when they're awake pass away the time, er, resting or eating. Finally, koalas are a menace to human society. For one thing, they can be vicious if handled wrongly. Second they have fingerprints that are identical to those of humans. The similarity is so great they can cause complete chaos when Australia's CSI-style forensic teams arrive at crime scenes.
So as I sat there with the kids, I had two options: one to keep quiet and coo along at the adorable little furries. Or two, explain that they were looking at a bunch of violent, lazy, poo-eating creatures with weird fingerprints and loose morals. As you've probably guessed, I went for option one. Well, I figured, they had enough frights on Hallowe'en last night.