- Koalas aren’t really bears at all!
Koalas’ closest living relative is the wombat. They are marsupial mammals. They are considered marsupials because they carry their babies in a pouch. They are considered mammals because their young are born live and not hatched and the mother nurses their young. Koalas stay with their mother until they are about 12 months old, or when they are fully weaned. The koala got its name “koala bear” because it looks a lot like a teddy bear.
- Koalas can be found in Australia.
Koalas live on the east coast of Australia, where Eucalyptus trees are plentiful. The koala’s fur is varies, depending on where they live. Koalas that live in the Southern parts of Australia have longer, shaggier fur to keep warm, where the koalas found in the Northern parts of Australia have shorter fur, in the warmer climate. Other than zoos, koalas do not live on any other continent than Australia.
- Baby koalas are very small when they are born.
When koalas are born, they are less than a centimeter long. By the time they are one month old, they have typically reached a centimeter long. Baby koalas are called cubs. Koala cubs are born blind. Koala cubs live in their mother’s pouch until they are about 5-6 months old. When they leave the mother’s pouch, koalas ride on their mother’s backs. Full grown koalas weigh about 20 pounds, but their weight varies from between 15-30 pounds. Koalas only have one baby at a time and female koalas have, on average, one cub a year. They do not have litters, like dogs and cats.
- Koalas like Eucalyptus trees.
Koalas prefer to ONLY eat Eucalyptus leaves. They eat so many Eucalyptus trees, they even smell like Eucalyptus trees! A koala eats about 2 ½ pounds of leaves a day. That’s a lot of leaves! They sleep up to 19 hours a day and love to sleep in the Eucalyptus trees, dozing off during the day. Koalas mostly eat at night. Koalas hop from tree to tree, climbing to get the leaves high in the trees.
- Koalas like a lot of space.
Each koala needs about 100 trees. They are solitary animals, which means that they do not live in groups. Aside from mating and mothers with their young, koalas prefer to live alone.
- Koalas don’t need water.
Koalas rarely drink water. They get all the moisture they need from the Eucalyptus trees they eat. In fact, the word “koala,” means “no water.” Australia is the driest continent on the Earth, because of that, this adaptation has been very important to the survival of the koala. In the event of a drought, koalas will drink water, if necessary. Koalas do not sweat or have sweat glands. They keep themselves cool by licking its arms and stretching out in between the branches of the Eucalyptus trees.
- Are koalas an endangered species?
Koalas are not officially on the Endangered Species List, but they are considered Vulnerable to extinction. The koala population is shrinking due to habitat destruction, domestic dogs, wild fires and roadway accidents. There is estimated to be about 80,000 koalas, although some argue that number could be significantly lower. The dwindling population of koalas is definitely something that we should be concerned with. Over 80% of the habitat of koalas has disappeared.
- Do koalas have thumbs?
Koalas have five digits, much like we have five fingers. They have two digits that are opposed, much like our own thumbs, which move differently than our other fingers. The opposed digits help them grip onto trees and branches of the Eucalyptus trees. Koalas have claws, which help they grip on to the Eucalyptus trees they climb. Their 2nd and 3rd digits are fused on their rear paws and is used as a grooming comb.
- Are Eucalyptus leaves poisonous to the koala?
Eucalyptus leaves contain chemical toxins that the digestive systems of koalas are specially designed to detoxify. Their complex digestive systems are very long and are able to break down the fiber and toxins in the Eucalyptus trees that allow koalas to eat them. Koalas are picky eaters. Although there are many different species of Eucalyptus, koalas will only eat specific kinds. Scientists postulate that some Eucalyptus trees are more poisonous than other and koalas are able to detect the right trees to eat. Sometimes, koalas will eat from trees other than Eucalyptus. Some of these varieties are: wattle, tea tree and paperbark trees. It is illegal to harm koalas, however, it is not illegal to destroy their habitat and food source—the Eucalyptus trees—which are being cut down to build homes for people.
- What is the lifespan of a koala?
The estimated lifespan of a koala in the wild is about 13-18 years. They can live 20 years or more in captivity. Their lifespan in the wild is beginning to decline, as their habitat disappears. Female koalas typically live longer than male koalas. One of the reasons female koalas live longer than male koalas is because male koalas often fight with each other in their quest for a mate during mating season. The oldest koala to live in captivity was 23 years old and was a female koala, named Sarah. Sarah is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest known koala.