The koala’s scientific name is Phascolarctos cinereus, which means “ash coloured bear”. Despite this, the koala is not a bear; it is a Marsupial.
At birth the baby koala is blind and furless about the size and shape of a peanut. At this stage it is called a “Pinkie”. It climbs unaided through its mother’s fur into a pouch where it attaches to one of two teats. Birth occurs 35 days after successful mating.
At birth young koalas weigh about 500 milligrams and measure less than 2 centimeters from head to tail. The young koala only drinks mother’s milk for the first six months and remains in the pouch during that time. Although twins are occasionally reported, a single young is the most common.
Koalas have a thick waterproof fur, which protects them from rain and wind.
Koalas spend as much as nineteen hours of every day sleeping. They are mostly nocturnal, sleeping during the day and moving around at night.
Although they prefer the leaves of just a few eucalypts, koalas have been seen eating and sitting on more than 120 different kinds of eucalyptus and nearly 40 non eucalypt tree species.
Adult koalas weigh between 4 and 14 kg depending on their sex and where they live. Male koalas are up to 50% heavier than females. Male koalas live for about 10 years and females survive up to 5 years longer. Male koalas live independently and do not socialise except at mating time. Female koalas may live in a small group often with family members. 49% of adolescent females will remain near their mothers.
Koalas get their water from rain droplets, moisture on leaves and from eating leaves. They occasionally drink from streams and ponds and have been seen swimming!
Koalas communicate with one another by marking trees with scent or through calls such as bellows, snarls and screams.
When walking slowly on the ground, koalas have a rather high stepping gait with both fore and hind legs, as though they were walking through shallow water.
Koalas are protected by law but their trees and food aren’t.
Moore Interesting Koala Facts
- Koala’s prefer a warm climate; 20 to 30 degrees, with little or no wind where they can browse in the mid to upper canopy of their favourite trees and snooze in the sun
- Koalas sleep between 18 and 22 hours a day in order to conserve energy. Koalas, especially females with joeys, more frequently use trees less than 5 metres
- Trees with low branching habits are preferred
- From about six months the Joey starts popping its head outside the pouch. At this time it begins feeding on a substance called “pap” which the mother produces in addition to milk. Pap is a specialized form of soft and runny faeces, or droppings, which allows the mother to pass on to the Joey micro-organisms, which are essential for the digestion of gum leaves
- The koala’s digestive system is especially adapted to detoxify the poisonous chemicals in the leaves. The Koala, the Greater Glider and the Ringtail Possum are the only mammals, which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves.
Bill Phillips – “Koala, the little Australian we would all hate to lose”
Australia Koala Foundation
Hunter Koala Preservation Society Inc