-The word “koala” derives from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” because they rarely drink water as they get 90% of their hydration from gum leaves.
-Koala fossils found in Australia have been dates as long as 20 million years.
-Koalas are listed as of “least concern” (not an endangered species) because of its wide distribution, presumed large population and because it’s unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category. However, the Australian government declared koalas as “vulnerable” in 2012.
-The average life span is 10 years for male koalas and 12 years for female koalas.
-Koalas have a small brain compared to their body.
-Koalas have opposable thumbs and toes which allow them a tight grip when climbing.
-Koalas are the only other mammals besides primates to have fingerprints.
|Koala fingerprint Human fingerprint|
-Koalas don’t have sweat glands and therefore don’t sweat. They hug cool trees to cool down. If needed, they can also pant and lick their fur but try to minimize the amount of water they use.
-Koalas can run and swim when required.
-Koalas are nocturnal animals. They mostly sleep during the day and move around and feed at night.
-Koalas are solitary animals. Each koala has its own home range, composed of several trees which provide it with food and shelter. Within a socially stable group, these home ranges can overlap. It’s in the shared overlapping trees that the majority of social interaction takes place. This is why a forest can only have a certain number of koalas living in it.
Koalas mark the trees around the boundary of their home range by scratching the trees trunk with their sharp claws.
-Mature male koalas have a dark scent gland in the center of their white chest which exudes a dark and sticky substance. Rubbing their gland on the trees in their home range is another way to indicate to other koalas that this is their territory.
-Adult koalas eat about 500 gr to 1 kilo (1.1 to 2.2 pounds) of leaves each night.
-Koalas can store leaves in pouches in their cheeks.
-Koalas have a very long fibre-digesting organ called a caecum (2 meters / 6.56 feet). It contains millions of bacteria which break down the otherwise indigestive fibers into substances which are easier to absorb. Even so, koalas only absorb 25% of fiber eaten.
-Koalas sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day. They don’t sleep that much because they get high on eucalypt leaves but because it requires a lot of energy to digest their toxic, fibrous and low-nutrition diet. Sleeping for long periods is the best way to conserve their energy.
-Koalas use a range of sounds to communicate with one another over relatively large distances.
The most unexpected of these noises happen during the mating season when male koalas bellow to attract women and intimidate other males without wasting too much energy.
This noise is quite surprising and not what you except at all. As they inhale, they sound like someone snoring and as they exhale, they sound like someone belching! The lowest pitch of their bellow is 20 times lower than what you would expect from an animal of their size and it the pitch expected from an elephant!
Koalas can make this noise because they possess an extra paid of vocal folds located outside the larynx.
-Female koalas are fully mature around 2 and male around 3 or 4 years old.
-The breeding season for koalas run from August to February.
-The mating ritual isn’t long and males are often seen biting the females on the back of the neck.
-Being marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young. The baby makes its way from the birth canal to the pouch completely unaided. Once inside the safety of the pouch, it attaches itself to one of the 2 teats, which swells to fill its mouth. This prevents the baby from being dislodged from its source of food. The mother contracts her strong sphincter muscle at the pouch opening to prevent the baby from failing out.
-The baby stays in its mother’s pouch for about 6 or 7 months, drinking only milk.
-Before it can tolerate gum leaves, which are toxic for most animals, the baby must feed on a substance called “pap”, which is a specialized form of the mother’s droppings that is soft and runny. This allows the mother to pass on to the baby special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for it to be able to digest the gum leaves.
-Baby koalas are fully weaned at around a year.
-After venturing out of the pouch, the baby rides on its mother’s abdomen or back, although it continues to return to her pouch for milk until it’s too big to fit inside.
I lived in Australia for a while so I had the chances to see koalas. They smell bad and they’re not very soft. But they’re still cute, aren’t they?