Koala together with kangaroo and dingo is a symbol of Australia. Read and learn unique facts about koalas to understand how special this little animal is.
Koalas are not bears. Some people call them ‘koala bears’ but this is not true as koalas are marsupial which means they carry their children in the pouch the same way as kangaroos and wombats. They are also the only living member of their family, Phascolarctidae.
To be more precise, the koala pouch is more similar to wombats because it opens towards the bottom.
Despite koalas being well known Australian icons, it is not easy to spot them in the wild. Koalas are native to Australia and can only be found in the wild on the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, in areas such as Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
During our trips, we only encounter a wild koala one time. It was in Tasmania. We drove to one of the hiking spots and we saw Koala crossing the road. We stopped the car and waited a bit until the koala disappeared into the bushes.
What’s the Koala diet?
This cute and fluffy animal sleeps 20 hours a day mainly because of its poor nutrition diet.
Koalas feed only on the specific type of eucalyptus leaves, like Manna Gum, Blue Gum, River Red Gum, and Swamp Gum.
Out of 900 eucalyptus species found in Australia, only 25 types of eucalyptus is a source food for koalas. Eucalyptus leaves provide them with high fibre and low protein. It means koalas are forced to slow down their metabolism in order to conserve energy.
A female koala can live 12 to 18 years and during her lifespan can have around 5-6 offspring.
Baby koalas are called joey (all marsupial youngs are called a joey).
When they are born are the size of jellybeans. After they are born they move to their mother’s pouch and stay there for around 6 months. During that time they develop ears, hair and start to see.
What is interesting, they feed on their mother’s milk for about 5 to 6 months. After that, they start eating their mother’s poo. Mothers poo called ‘pap’ contains a special type of bacteria the koala joeys need to digest eucalyptus leaves. Very interesting!
Koalas have a unique digestive system that allows them to break down the tough fibers found in eucalyptus leaves. They have a special chamber in their stomach called a cecum, which contains bacteria that helps them digest their food.
Interesting facts about koalas
Koalas have a very small brain relative to their body size, which is thought to be an adaptation to their low-energy lifestyle. However, they have a highly developed sense of smell, which they use to locate their favorite eucalyptus trees.
Despite the opinion that kolas are not very smart and have a tiny brain, researchers from Brisbane Griffith University created man-made crossings, to prevent road accidents.
The clever koalas worked out how to use the structures in three weeks, proving you can teach the furry animal new tricks.
Speaking about fur – Koalas have a thick, woolly fur that helps keep them warm in cold temperatures and also helps protect their skin from the sun. The fur is also water-repellent, which helps keep them dry in rainy weather.
Another interesting fact is that koalas have two thumbs! Two opposite thumbs make really easy to grab a brunch evenly and navigate between the trees with ease. They also have long, sharp claws.
And if you wonder if koalas have a tail or not the answer is – no. They do not have a tail. However, their bone structure indicates that sometimes in the past external tail was present.
Let’s not forget the fact that koalas can make one of the most unsettling sounds of the Australian bush. You can listen to the sound here.
Generally, male koalas growl during mating season and females make clicking, and squeaking sounds but also can produce grunts to signal annoyance.
What are koalas main threats?
Habitat loss is the greatest threat to koalas.
In South East Queensland, an average of almost 300 koalas are killed each year by cars. During times of stress, koalas are prone to outbreaks of bacterial infections (chlamydia). Diseases reduce the immune system response and cause blindness and female infertility.
Dogs are also a major threat to the koala population. Around 75 koalas are killed each year in Queensland from dog attacks.
Climate changes are also a major threat to the koala population.
Koalas are arboreal, which means they spend most of their time in trees. They are particularly fond of eucalyptus trees, which make up the majority of their diet.
About 5,000 koalas are thought to have died in devastating 2019 bushfires. Fire damage affected 24 % of koala habitats.
In conclusion, koalas are fascinating and unique animals that have captured the hearts of people around the world. They are beloved for their adorable appearance, docile nature, and endearing vocalizations.
However, they face many challenges in the wild, including habitat loss and climate change. It is important that we continue to learn about and appreciate these iconic creatures, and work to protect their habitat and ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy. By doing so, we can help ensure that these adorable and fascinating marsupials continue to thrive in the wild.
Where spotted: Magnetic Island, Tasmania, Brisbane