Information about the Australian Koala

Koalas, koalas and more koalas! Are you searching for information about koalas? Look no further, here you'll find all the information you need!

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The Koala is a tree dwelling marsupial, found on the eastern side of Australia.

They feed almost exclusively on the leaves of Eucalyptus trees.

Marsupials are animals that give birth to very undeveloped young, that then climb up to a special pouch on the mother's front, where they attach to a milk supplying teat. They stay attached for several months, undergoing the changes other mammals develop in the womb.

They merge from the pouch fully furred, then cling to the mother's belly, still feeding on her milk, while they transition to feeding on eucalyptus leaves. As the leaves become the whole diet it moves to ride on her back, feeding with her, until they leave her at about 12 months, finding their own territory and leading independent lives.

Koalas occur from northern Queensland, down to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Their distribution is determined by the presence of the Eucalyptus trees that provide their food. Not all Eucalyptus trees are suitable for Koalas, but many suitable species occur in eastern Australia that provide their preferred food. As well as their food trees, koalas use other trees for shelter.

Koalas spend most of their time in the trees, but do descend to the ground, to move to a new tree nearby, or to move to a new location. On the ground they are vulnerable to dog attack, and vehicles when they need to cross roads.

With the destruction of much of their habitat Koalas have disappeared from many places, and become scarcer in others. But sometimes they can multiply, in an isolated area, until their numbers exceed its ability to support them. Relocation programs are then needed to shift them to a new area.

Koala populations are also threatened by disease, particularly Chlamydia. This is a bacterial infection causing infertility, blindness and death. It occurs in the urogenital and respiratory tracts. Young Koalas are frequently infected at birth. Treatment with antibiotics is a lengthy process, not practical in the wild.

Seeing Koalas in the wild is not as common as it once was. As well as spending most of the time high in the gum tree canopy, Koalas are largely nocturnal and spend up to 20 hours each day sleeping and resting. The best way to be assured of getting up close to these iconic Australian animals is to visit one of the many wildlife parks.

Many wildlife parks will also give visitors a chance to see the Koalas closest relative, the Wombat. This is another nocturnal marsupial, one that burrows and is most likely to be seen in the wild at night, feeding at the side of roads where it is often a casualty of fast moving vehicles.

Fast Facts

  • Koala - Phascolarctus cinereus
  • Life span - male 10-12 years, female up to 18 years in captivity.
  • Weight - male 12 kg, female 8 kg.
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