|Size:||Height: 24 to 33 inches (61 to 84 cm)|
|Weight:||17 to 26 pounds (8 to12 kg)|
|Young:||1 cub every year or every other year|
|Animal Predators:||Foxes, dogs and dingoes|
|IUCN Status:||Lower Risk, Near Threatened|
|Terms:||Young: Joey or Cub|
|Lifespan:||Males live up to 10 years in the wild and females can live up to 15 years|
· ‘Koala’ is thought to mean ‘no drink’ in one of Australia’s aboriginal languages because koalas drink very little, thanks to the amount of moisture in their food.
· Koala mothers and their offspring are very affectionate with each other.
· The koala was officially proclaimed the animal, or faunal, emblem of Queensland, Australia, in 1971.
· Koalas are most closely related to wombats and kangaroos.
Koalas have dense, woolly fur that varies from grey to brown. There is also white on the chin, chest and inner side of the forelimbs. The rump is often dappled with white patches and the ears are fringed with long white hairs. The paws are large, and both fore and hind feet have five strongly clawed digits.
There are four Australian states where koalas can be found in the wild—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Koalas are arboreal (live in trees) and often have home territories that overlap those of other koalas. They socialize within this group in the privacy of the bushy, overlapping trees. Koalas often stick to the same territory throughout their lives, if left undisturbed. Koalas live in areas where a large number of eucalyptus trees are found, as well as other gum trees.
Koalas have special cheek pouches that store food and a digestive system that can handle a diet consisting entirely of eucalyptus leaves. Eating between one and two pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) of leaves each night, koalas run the risk of exhausting their food supply.
Males are polygamous and may mate with several females during the breeding season from September to March. Females start breeding at about three or four years of age and produce one offspring every one to two years. Birth takes place in 35 days following conception and the new baby is called a joey or a cub. It is about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) long and is born hairless, with closed eyes. The joey moves from the birth canal to its mother’s pouch on its own and begins to nurse. It stays in its mother’s pouch for six to seven months while it grows and develops. At 22 weeks, its eyes open and the joey begins to look out from the pouch and gets semi-solid food provided by the mother. The joey eventually leaves the pouch and rides on its mother’s back, but continues to nurse until it is a year old. The joey will stay with its mother until she gives birth to a new baby, whether that takes one season or more. Joeys who stay with their mothers longer have a greater chance of survival.
Koalas are endearing little marsupials that are often mistaken for bears. Because of their slow metabolic rate due to a high-fibre, low nutrient diet, they are often lethargic, and sleep for up to 14 hours per day. This is necessary because koalas store little or no fat, and need to adopt strategies to conserve energy. The bulk of their diet is made up of eucalyptus leaves, but also includes the leaves of several other trees. During cold weather, koalas can be seen curled up in balls to keep warm in the fork of a tree. In warm weather, they hang over a branch, their limbs dangling. Females live longer than males because males become highly stressed during mating season, sometimes getting injured in fights over females. Males also have greater ranges and travel more, running the risk of encountering cars or dogs.
Each state in Australia has its own legislation regarding koalas. In New South Wales, the koala is listed as “vulnerable” within the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 in recognition of the continuing decline of koalas and koala habitat. Koalas were re-introduced to South Australia after they were declared extinct during the 1920s and are now classified as “rare.” Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island, where koalas had not naturally occurred before, and the island now ironically has an overabundance of koalas.
Koala Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US