The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an iconic Australian marsupial which is recognised all throughout the world. Everyone wants to see these lovely animals with their fluffy ears and black button noses sometime.
The koala gets its name from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” because it receives over 90% of its water from the indigestible Eucalyptus or gum leaves it eats.
The Koala is found in most coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia as well as in inland woodlands. Victoria has the largest koala populations while there are none at all in Tasmania or West Australia.
Koalas spend about three of their five active hours eating usually at night. They chew the leaves with their powerful jaws to a fine paste before swallowing. Koalas eat about 50 out of the 500 different types of eucalypt leaves but mainly manna gum, blue gum, swamp gum and red river gum.
Baby Koalas (joeys) are born hairless, blind, and earless. Tiny at birth, the joey crawls into the pouch on the mother’s belly (which is closed by a drawstring-like muscle that the mother can tighten at will) and attaches itself to one of the two teats.
Over the next 6 months the joey remains inside the pouch until it has grown its ears, the eyes are open and its body is covered in soft fur. At this stage the joey begins to spend time outside the pouch on its mother’s back feeding on milk and leaves until weaning is complete at about a year old.
Ten little known facts about koalas
Did you know?
They eat up to half a kilo of leaves per day
The Manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalsi) is one of the Koala’s favourite food and its youngest and smallest leaves are full of prussic acid which deters the Koalas from eating these and stripping the tree. They also store their food in their cheek pouches until they swallow.
Taking photos of Koalas can be dangerous
Taking photos? Make sure you pull into a safe spot. As tempting as it is to stop in your tracks, jump out and take a photo you should always ensure you are not obstructing the road. Safety first. If it's not in a place you can pull out without endangering anyone it is not worth the shot.