Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) are only found in small bushland habitats on the eastern coast of Australia. Their scientific name was given by Europeans and means “ash gray pouched bear,” but the koala is not related to the bear family at all. They are marsupials. Like the wombat, their pouch opens towards their hind legs.
Koalas are arboreal (tree inhabitants). They primarily eat the leaves of about 50 of the 600 species of eucalyptus trees in Australia. Eucalyptus leaves would be poisonous to most animals, but koalas have a bacteria in their stomach that breaks the leaves down.
A koala can weigh 15 to 20 pounds. Females are smaller than males. Southern koalas are larger and have browner fur than northern koalas.
When born the usual single joey weighs less than 1/5 of an ounce! Pink and furless, he or she won’t come out of the pouch for 6 to 7 months. Koalas live to be 8 to 10 years of age. They have strong arms and legs with opposable thumbs on their hands for gripping. Both feet and hands have thick rough pads and long claws.
Koalas have a thick woolly fur. It protects them from temperature extremes and repels moisture when it rains. Their bottom fur is padded to make sitting comfortable and speckled which makes them harder to spot from below. They descend a tree bottom first.
When afraid, koalas cry like a baby screaming. Mothers and babies make soft clicking, and squeaking sounds. They also may hum or murmur, and grunt. All koalas make an inhaling sound like a snore called a “bellow.”
Koalas sleep about 18 to 19 hours a day and are mostly nocturnal animals.
Fun Koala Facts
- The word koala is aboriginal for "no drink." Koala get the water they need from their food.
- A male koala has a scent gland on his chest. It is used to attract females during mating season and to mark territory.
- The koala does not have an external tail.
- A koala can climb 150 feet to the top of a tree, and can leap from treetop to treetop.
- Koalas have few natural predators. They are usually killed when they come down from trees by domestic dogs or cars, and through loss of habitat.
Australian Koala Foundation
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
San Diego Zoo
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