Known as the Australian teddy bear, the furry grey koala lives high in the tops of eucalyptus trees. Now a protected species, it is still threatened by loss of habitat and disease.
The koala is a marsupial with hands and feet specially adapted for climbing trees. When it descends to the ground it shuffles along awkwardly on its short, stocky legs.
Sadly the settlement of these new lands brought about a dramatic decline in the koala population.
Land clearance, often accompanied by burning, destroyed much of their natural habitat and huge numbers of koalas were killed for the fur trade. In 1924, more than two million skins were exported.
Slaughter on this scale came close to wiping out the species. Only a few thousand koalas survived before protective measures were taken.
Inside the pouch, the baby koala attaches itself to a nipple to feed on the mother’s milk. It will continue to grow inside the pouch for approximately 6 months, then during the last month, the mother will begin to feed it with half digested food passed through her rectum.
At six months the young koala begins to leave the pouch and moves to its mother’s back where it clings tightly. Three months later, the young koala will be fully grown and able to feed itself. Be that as it may, the young koala will remain with its mother until the next mating season, when it will be driven off by the next male suitor. The young koala will move itself off to another tree and from that point on will live independently until it too become sexually mature.
1. The koala never drinks, but receives all of its liquid from eucalyptus leaves.
2. In Aborigine language ‘koala’ means ‘no water’.
3. Out of over 100 or more species of eucalyptus tree which grow in Australia, the koala feeds on only 12, and then only on leaves that are at a particular stage in their development!
4. Mating takes place at night, high in the tree tops, to a vocal accompaniment of grunts, bellows and screams.
5. The koala smells strongly of musk and eucalyptus. This smell is thought to discourage fleas, and other vermin that would try and make a ‘living’ in the koala’s fur.
6.The koala is an excellent swimmer, able to cross rivers in order to survive heavy flooding.
7. Ironically, many koalas are killed in sanctuaries, run over by cars belonging to visitors.
8. A new born koala is only the size of a broad bean. Its hind legs are barely formed, but its forelimbs and claws are relatively well developed. It drags itself to the pouch following a trail of saliva laid down by the mother.
What do Koalas eat?
Koalas eat so much food, on average between 500g and 1kg of leaves daily, that they can easily exhaust their food supply. Sometimes special measures have to be taken to move koalas into areas where food is more plentiful. The main difficulty with keeping koalas in sanctuaries or in zoos outside Australia is to obtain enough leaves of exactly the right species to keep then fed. Unfortunately they cannot survive without eucalyptus because of their specially adapted digestion.
Where do koalas live?
Koalas are a native of Australia, predominately found on the coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and parts of South Australia, with the largest concentrations in New South Wales and Victoria. They are now a protected species with sanctuaries flourishing in Victoria and Queensland. They have been reintroduced into south Australia where they have become locally extinct.
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Based on an article from the Wildlife fact-file
Photo care of http://www.english-online.at/geography/australia/plants-and-animals-in-australia.htm and http://rsds1.revere.k12.oh.us/HILLCREST/Australia/Koala/interesting.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/3567527/Animal-pictures-of-the-week-5-December-2008.html and http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/koala/ and http://australiankoala.wikispaces.com/Reproduction