An Introduction to Koalas
The Koala is one of the most recognizable animals of Australia. I've put together a page where you can find koala facts, pictures, and gift ideas all in one place. Plus, if you collect koala items or know someone who does, there are great gift ideas here.
Incredibly cute, koalas are one of the top sights to see for anyone travelling to Australia. However, they are difficult to find in the wild, so most people need to rely on zoos and habitats in order to visit with the cuddly critters. I had the chance to see them when I was in Australia and I highly recommend it for anyone who has a chance.
Because wild Koalas are so reclusive, much of the information about them comes from those in captivity. They can live up to 18 years, though it is likely less in the wild. In the early part of the 20th century, they were hunted freely and their numbers were therefore greatly reduced.
Hunting them is now illegal (with the exception of certain Aboriginal traditions) and they are a protected species. There are strict laws about handling of them even in captivity. In New South Wales, it is illegal for the public to hold them. In Queensland, tourisists can have their picture taken with a koala, however they can only be handled for a short period of time each day, so visiting time is short. Regardless, it is well worth it for even a brief cuddle with one!
Unless otherwise credited, all images belong to author.
Image belongs to Eric Veland used under Creative Commons Licence
Some Koala Facts
A little about them
Because they share similiar physical characteristics as bears, koalas are often referred to as koala bears. However, it seems that more people are realizing this is not the case. They are a marsupial; like the kangaroo, they have a pouch.
They spend most of their time in trees and feed off the eucalyptus leaf which is highly toxic and low in protein. Consequently, koalas spend much of their day sleeping; on average, they are awake only 5-6 hours a day. They spend approximately three of these hours eating. They will eat 500g of the leaf each day and spend a great deal of time chewing it into a fine paste. They have very sharp claws and they use them to climb and stay in trees. They sleep in the branches, usually finding a fork of a tree to nestle in. It's quite amazing to see one completely out cold so high up.
The name "koala" comes from an Aboriginal word meaning "no drink." This is because they get 90% of their water from the eucalyptus leaves. They only drink water when they are sick or when there is a drought and the leaves do not provide enough moisture. This is extremely convenient since the they have so little energy.
Koalas have opposable digits which help them climb and stay in trees.
Cuddling a Koala
Australia is known for experiencing periods of extreme drought. While humans can find ways to adapt, wildlife, including koalas, sometimes struggle. Thirsty koalas often approach humans in search of help. Here's an adorable little guy getting water from a kind family.
Learning about the past
The early twentieth century was a dark time for the koala. They were widely hunted for the fur and as a result, their numbers were reduced nearly to the point of extinction. In South Australia they were completely extinct by 1924 and there were only about 500 left in Victoria. The population in New South Wales wasn't very far behind. The public was outraged by this and eventually convinced the government to ban koala hunting. By the end of the 1930's, the koala was a protected species and hunting them was illegal.
The koala populations in Victoria and South Australia have increased since the ban, however they are still only at 15,000 combined. Compared to the original population of millions, this is a severe depletion. And, despite the increased numbers and the ban on hunting, they are still at risk from disease and accidents, along with natural causes such as drought. Because of this, it is vital that we do what we can to protect them.
Koalas have quite a different pouch from a kangaroo. A koala's pouch is upside down. This means that the joey must crawl into it and then the mother tightens a "drawstring" like muscle to keep her baby secure.
Gestation is only thirty-five days, so when the joey enters the mother's pouch, it is only the size of a jellybean and is blind, ear-less, and hairless. According to animal handlers I met, they're actually quite ugly. That doesn't stop them from growing into the adorable, fuzzy creatures we know and love. It takes about six months for them to reach this point; when they do, they come out of the mother's pouch and begin to explore the world.
While in their mother's pouch, baby koalas survive off their mother's milk. Once they emerge, they need to eat their mother's "pap" (or excrement) in order to prepare their stomach for the harsh toxins of the eucalyptus leaf. For the next six months, the joey will stay with the mother, often riding on her back, and will eat a mixture of milk and eucalyptus leaves. When it is ready to be independent, the mother will begin to ignore the joey and it will leave to begin adulthood.
While its official status is a threatened species by both the Australian and U.S. governments, as of August 2012, the koala is also being described as an endangered species. There is some discrepancy as to the number left in the wild; some studies claim hundreds of thousands of the marsupials still live in the wild, while others state the number is closer to 80,000. Regardless of the correct number, the population is significantly low.
Before humans, koalas numbered in the millions. In the early 20th century, they were widely hunted for their pelts and came close to extinction. Public outrage over the mass killings caused new laws to be put in place. However, during the drought of 1926-28, poverty caused a one month open season to be declared and another 600,000 koalas were killed.
While the koala is a protected species today, urbanization is still a threat. Expansion of cities causes habitat loss. Koalas need large expanses of forest to survive because when a supply of eucalyptus leaf depletes, they travel to a new source. Dog attacks and traffic accidents are also major problems. In addition to these threats, disease poses a risk, especially chlamydia.
Each state in which the koala lives lists the creature as vulnerable. As such, there are strict laws about how they are handled.
There may be as few as 80,000 koalas left in the wild. It's up to us to help them survive.
Do you have a cute koala experience to share? Here's the place!
TanoCalvenoa on July 22, 2014:
We always have loved seeing the koalas at the San Diego Zoo.
Stephanie (author) from Canada on June 29, 2014:
@Charito1962: Their fur is actually pretty coarse, but they're still soft anyway. I wish I could have held one for longer. They only let you hold it for as long as it takes to get the photo.
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on June 26, 2014:
Wish I could hold a koala! It must be so soft and furry!
Rose Jones on January 26, 2014:
What a delightful lens! I loved the picture of the koala drinking water the kind person put out for them. Pinned to my "cool critters" board.
thingz1 on April 24, 2013:
Love the video showing a koala up close and personal. Thanks for the great info on koalas!
Oneshotvariety LM on February 15, 2013:
Interesting lens. Great gift options as well.
WriterJanis2 on February 05, 2013:
Koala are so cute!
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 27, 2013:
@capriht: Thank you!
capriht on January 26, 2013:
great lens well done...
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 19, 2013:
@anonymous: Thank you very much!
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 19, 2013:
@Loretta L: I know! I didn't get to see one run at all, but the video is great. Thanks for visiting!
anonymous on January 18, 2013:
Enjoyed your lens. The photos certainly are cute!
Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on January 17, 2013:
They look so funny when they run. So cute.
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 15, 2013:
@TreasuresBrenda: I know--I'd never seen one before I went to Australia and it was at the very top of my list of things to do.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on January 15, 2013:
Koalas are cute and so foreign to us in North America!
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 13, 2013:
@anonymous: Thank you so much!
anonymous on January 10, 2013:
Koalas are so cute. Great information about Koalas on this lens.
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 09, 2013:
@SandyMertens: Thank you very much!
Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on January 06, 2013:
Wonderful information on the koala.
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 06, 2013:
@malikaehf: I would love a pet koala! I'm not sure my cat would, though. Thanks for stopping by!
malikaehf on January 06, 2013:
My kids love koalas, just wish we could keep one as a pet!
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 02, 2013:
@sukkran trichy: I completley agree! Thanks so much for the visit and the blessing!
sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on January 02, 2013:
would like to have a kola as my pet, but it cannot legally be kept as a pet. cute animal.
Stephanie (author) from Canada on January 02, 2013:
@anonymous: Thanks you, and thanks for dropping by!
anonymous on January 02, 2013:
Stephanie (author) from Canada on December 30, 2012:
@Sylvestermouse: They are awfully cute, aren't they? Thanks so much for stopping by!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on December 30, 2012:
Koalas are among my personal favorites!
Stephanie (author) from Canada on December 28, 2012:
@Ajeet: They really are! :)
Ajeet on December 27, 2012:
Koalas are the ultimate cuddly animals :)
Stephanie (author) from Canada on December 23, 2012:
@CCGAL: Thank you very much! I think you have to go to northern Australia in order to hold one. In Sydney area you're not allowed, but in Queensland I could. I'm not sure if that's changed now that they're listed as vulnerable there, too.
CCGAL on December 23, 2012:
I used to collect koala shaped nick knacks and stuffed toys, long long ago. The closest I have ever been to one, however, was at the San Diego Zoo in the late 1970's. I learned things I did not know about koalas by reading your lens. Very nicely done!