All About Koalas
Koalas are often called bears because they look a little like teddy bears, but they are actually marsupials. Like other marsupials, the female has a pouch where she carries her baby, called a joey, for several months after birth. When a joey is strong enough to cling to its mother's back, it leaves the pouch but still sticks its head in to nurse.
Koalas are known as picky eaters. There are hundreds of different types of eucalyptus, but koalas only eat a few dozen kinds. And koalas won’t eat every leaf off of each branch. In fact, at the San Diego Zoo, we offer each koala 25 pounds of fresh eucalyptus each day, and each only eats about 1.5 pounds of it. We give them a lot to choose from because they know what's best!
While koalas currently aren’t listed as an endangered species, 80 percent of koala habitat has been lost to human homes and businesses, drought, and fires. That makes life hard for an animal that needs eucalyptus forests to survive, like koalas do. Koalas also are at risk when close to human populations and being killed by cars or dogs. Many people are working together to protect koala habitat and help these cuddly looking creatures survive.
- Each animal eats a tremendous amount for its size—about one kilogram of leaves a day. Koalas even store snacks of leaves in pouches in their cheeks.
- Out of over a hundred species of eucalyptus trees that grow in Australia, the koala feeds only on twelve, and will only eat leaves at a particular stage of growth.
- Koalas can easily exhaust its’ own supply. Conservationists have to move groups of koalas to areas where food is plentiful.
- The koala has a special digestive system—a long gut— which measures a colossal two metres and is packed with super micro-organisms that detoxify the leaves.
- Koalas tend to smell strongly of eucalyptus and musk. This is thought to discourage fleas and other animals from living in its fur.
- The koala is an excellent swimmer, and may cross rivers in order to escape from heavy flooding in one area.
- A newborn koala is only the size of a broad bean, blind and hairless.
- The young koala spends its first six months inside its mother’s pouch. For the next two or three months it clings to its mother’s fur during the day, returning to the safety of her pouch at night.
- The koala mother and her young enjoy a very close relationship. She happily carries her offspring around constantly until it is old enough to be independent