Updated: Mar 12
The koala is an adorable animal with round plush eyes, long claws and a big nose. This famous marsupial from Australia has become an icon of the country.
Our much-loved koalas, with their stout, tailless body, large head with round, fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose, are instantly recognisable as a symbol of Australia. Koalas are an integral part of the Australian bush – perched high up in the branches of gum trees sleeping for up to 20 hours a day.
Contrary to popular belief, koalas do not live all over Australia, they only live in small areas on the east coast of Australia. This restriction in their distribution is due to urban development. Koalas have a good appetite.
Lifespan: 13 – 18 years (In the wild)
Mass: 4 – 15 kg (Adult)
Scientific name: Phascolarctos cinereus
Gestation period: 30 – 36 days
Trophic level: Herbivorous Encyclopedia of Life
KOALA eat about 50 of the 700 species of eucalyptus that exist. Eucalyptus leaves contain 50% water, 5% sugar and starchy foods. It is a food that provides little energy, which is why they conserve their energy by sleeping for almost 19 hours a day. Koalas have rough pads and large claws to be able to climb trees. Like humans, koalas have fingerprints.
The word “koala” is an aboriginal word meaning “no drink”. This name comes from the fact that koalas rarely descend from their trees to go and drink water since they get most of their hydration from the eucalyptus leaves they eat. More than 130 koalas currently live at Lone Pine, on day parole, and are pampered by the trainers. A roaming koala lives on average 10 years while a captive koala generally reaches the age of 12-15 years.
Because of its distinctive appearance, the koala is recognised worldwide as a symbol of Australia. Koalas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Sanctuaries were established, and translocation efforts moved to new regions koalas whose habitat had become fragmented or reduced.
Among the many threats to their existence are habitat destruction caused by agriculture, urbanisation, droughts and associated bushfires, some related to climate change. Increased habitat loss may also increase risks from vehicle traffic, dog attacks, pesticides in waterways, and increased food competition.
Male koalas are easily distinguished by a brown mark on the chest. An adult male weighs around 14 Kg, while a female weighs on average 11 Kg. In addition, the lifespan of a male koala is relatively shorter than that of a female, due to the hormones of testosterone.
On average, males range in weight from around 6 kg in Queensland and up to 12 kg in Victoria, females range from an average of 5 kg in Queensland to 8.5 kg in Victoria.
Older koalas, like the elderly, require special attention. For this, we give them fresh and juicy eucalyptus branches to make sure they have no problem feeding. In addition, they are more followed by our veterinarians.
A protective coat
The koalas are covered with soft and thick fur allowing them to protect themselves from different temperatures, but also from heavy rains. Their fur varies according to the light of day, it goes from grey to brown, with white spots on the chest and the nape of the neck, under the arms and legs and inside the ears.
Koala is not a bear!
Many people compare the koala to a bear because of their similar appearance. To say that a Koala is a bear is scientifically incorrect. The koala is a marsupial mammal, such as kangaroos or even wombats. It is not a placental mammal such as a bear or a human.
A baby Koala weighs at birth less than 1 gram and looks like an "all pink candy". A newborn baby has an already highly developed sense of touch and smell. Its forelegs, as well as its claws, already allow it to cling to its mother and it has an innate sense of direction. Koala babies instinctively climb into their mom's pocket where they can feed and develop properly. These babies start to come out of their pocket from 6 months, and can no longer take refuge there from 8 months because of their size. However, they remain on the back of their mother, and it is only from 12 months that they become completely independent.
How do koalas communicate?
Koalas communicate by a deep growl called "bellow". This sound is used by males to attract females and to intimidate other males around. Females also grow this growl, more often at night, during hot periods between September and March. This sound can be heard over 800 meters around. As for the zoo's koalas, they growl more to demand food. This sound allows them to impose themselves in the midst of others, and this can even translate into a "competition of grunts".
Is that uncomfortable?
The fur on koala bottoms are densely packed to 'cushion' the branches they sit on, and they have bony cartilage under the skin which is perfectly formed for sitting in the "V" shape of tree branches. Koalas have white patches on their bottom which help them camouflage, so they are hard to spot from the ground.
Koalas have a thick, woolly fur. This coat protects them from both hot and cold temperatures and acts like a raincoat during wet weather. The fur varies in colour from light grey to brown with patches of white on the chest and neck, inside arms and legs, and inside the ears.
Koalas spend almost all of their day up in the trees, meaning they have an arboreal lifestyle.
In the wild, koalas serve as ambassadors for the many other species that also inhabit the Australian bush. Protecting bushland areas in an effort to save koala populations also protects the habitat of a wide range of animal and plant species such as possums, gliders, wombats, quolls, birds, and reptiles.
Look at those claws!
Koala hands and feet have long sharp claws and thick pads for cushioning. With three fingers and two opposable thumbs on their hands, they have a fantastic grip. On their feet, they have a 'grooming claw'; the first and second toes are fused together and there are two claws on this toe. They use this claw-like a comb to clean themselves and remove excess fur.
Yes, mostly Koalas do smell like cough drops or certainly a pleasant eucalyptus smell. Mature males tend to have a stronger odour because of their scent gland and it can be a strong musky odour than eucalyptus. Juvenile males are more likely to give off a very slight eucalyptus smell
What's that smell?
A male koala is easily distinguished by a brown mark on his chest, known as a 'scent gland'. Male koalas will rub this acorn against trees to mark their territory and attracts females.
Size does matter
Male koalas are larger than females. An adult male koala weighs between seven and 14 kilograms whilst females usually weigh between six and 11 kilograms.
How long does a koala live?
The normal life expectancy of a wild koala is eight to 10 years whilst captive koalas commonly live 12 to 15 years.
There is increasing evidence that climate change is leading to significant koala range contractions in western Queensland and New South Wales. This is due to reduced nutrient levels in Eucalyptus leaves, rendering them of lower quality. There is also strong evidence of the impact of droughts and extremely high temperatures on koalas and the likelihood that these events will not only increase in incidence but in severity as well.
What you can do to help
• Drive slowly and carefully at night. Koalas are nocturnal. Keep to the speed limits. • Carry the phone number of your local koala group or wildlife rescue service in your car. • If you live in koala country, at night lock up your dog. It is not enough to just keep it in your yard – Koalas can climb most fences or trees into yards. • In times of drought or in particularly hot weather, place a container of water at the base of a tree known to be used by koalas.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Queensland Australia isis home to 130 koalas. Click here to find facts about Koala.