What do they look like? The koala is a mid-sized marsupial with thick, dense fur. Koalas have small eyes and a distinctive large flat black nose. Koalas have strong claws and powerful arms and legs to allow them to climb very large trees. They comfortably sit in trees all day because of their thickly-padded bottoms.
Where do they live? Koalas are arboreal animals which only come to ground to move to a new feeding area. Due to their limited diet, the koala is only found in the eucalypt forests of eastern Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the far south-eastern part of South Australia.
What do they eat?Koalas have an exclusive diet of eucalyptus leaves and their digestive tract is specifically designed to cope not only with the low nutrition-high fibre characteristics of the foliage but also the toxic compounds that are contained in the leaves. Of the many hundreds of species of eucalypt leaves however, koalas only eat around 40 on a regular basis and in any given area usually three or four species comprise the bulk of the diet. Their inactivity is an energy-saving adaptation to compensate their poor diet.
Behaviour: A koala leads a slow-paced life spending up to 19 hours a day sleeping. They do not interact with each other except in territorial disputes and to mate. The bellow of the male is low pitched and can be heard for up to 800 meters. It may announce his presence to other males or to females.
Reproduction: After a gestation period of about 35 days females give birth to a single young. The “joey” is only the size of a jelly bean. Using powerful front legs and arms, it crawls into its mother’s pouch and attaches to a teat. By 12 months the youngster is weaned. Juveniles will stay with their mother until about 18 months old. Soon after, the young koala leaves for good to find a home of its own.
Threats: Koala populations have declined significantly due to human development leading to habitat loss. Stress of overpopulation in areas can lead to disease outbreaks. Domestic animals such as dogs also threaten wild Koalas. Many Koalas are killed each year crossing roads as they search for an ever depleting supply of food.
Conservation Status:International law protects Koalas by regulating trade of live koalas and koala products. The Environmental Protection Authority lists Koalas in Queensland as Vulnerable.