What’s your favourite animal? The majestic elephant, the noble lion or the cuddly panda? We all like different kinds of animals, from savage predators to swift fliers. If you like the cute variety then you’ll probably have the koala in your top 10. Today’s Nature Matters is full of fascinating facts about the cool koala.
- Contrary to popular belief, koalas are not bears. They are in fact marsupials, closely related to kangaroos and wombats
- Like all marsupials, koala mothers have pouches in which they keep their newborn young
- Newborn koalas are very small – about the size of a broad bean. They have no hair and are totally blind
- They remain in their mother’s pouch for six months, until they have grown enough to hang on to their mother’s fur
- Koalas live in eucalyptus trees. They eat nothing but eucalyptus leaves, which their digestive systems have adapted to remove poisons from
- A koala eats up to a kilogram of leaves every day, which is a lot for such a small animal
- When they are not eating, koalas tend to be sleeping. They snooze for about 18 hours every day!
- Koalas seldom drink. They get all the water they need from the leaves they eat. The word koala means ‘no water’ in the Aborigine language
- Because of their tree-dwelling lifestyle, koalas are excellent climbers. They have three fingers and two thumbs on their front paws which give them a firm grip of the branches
Because of their specialised diet and lifestyle, koalas are very susceptible to habitat loss. As much as 80% of the forests they lived in have been cleared by developers. In addition, it’s estimated that 4,000 koalas are killed every year by cars or dogs. They were once hunted for their fur but, thankfully, no more. They are protected by certain laws in Australia yet, despite this, koala numbers are still falling. From a population of several millions in the 19th Century, there are now only a few hundred thousand left.
I’m sure you’ll agree with us here at Education Quizzes that the loss of the koala would be a tragedy. Thankfully, groups like the Australian Koala Foundation are working to raise awareness of the koala’s plight, and to conserve the animal, its sources of food and it habitat.