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This cute and cuddly national icon of the land down under, Australia, is listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia. More than 5000 have been killed in Queensland in four years due to mass tree clearing. Conversely, some parts of Victoria are experiencing a population explosion, resulting in unhealthy forests and stressed and dying trees. A recent report in The Australian revealed that poor bush management is the real problem in Koala conservation and that healthy forests have dispersed numbers of Koalas roaming in large areas.
Nonetheless here some interesting facts about koalas that make them a truly unique species.
- Unlike their common name suggests, koalas are not bears but rather Marsupials — meaning their young are born premature and further develop in the safety of their mother’s pouch.
- A koala’s closest living relative is the wombat.
© David Clode
- The fur on a koala differs by region. Koalas from the south have longer shaggier fur, while koalas in the north have shorter hair and smaller bodies to adapt to the warmer climate.
- A baby koala is called a joey and is about two cm long when it is born. Koala joeys stay in the mother’s pouch for five months before they first emerge and leave the pouch at about eight months. Koalas can live for up to 20 years.
- Koalas eat so many eucalypt leaves that they smell like eucalyptus. Koalas eat approximately one kg of leaves per day.
© David Clode
- The term ‘Koala’ is the Aboriginal word for ‘no drink.’ Koalas get the majority of their water from the moisture of the eucalyptus leaves. Only the larger males require additional water from the ground.
- Koalas are nocturnal, which means they mainly sleep during the day and forage at night. They sleep on average 18 hours a day.
- Koalas have opposable thumbs and toes to provide a strong grip when climbing. They have rough pads on their hands and feet to increase traction.
- The numbers of koalas in the wild have dropped by 90% in the past decade due to human encroachment and destruction of natural habitat.
- Koalas are asocial animals and the only bond is between mother and joey.