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Koala
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Koala


Koala
Photographer: Guillaume Blanchard


Koala Range Map (Eastern Australia)
Koala Range Map (Eastern Australia)
Latin Name Phascolarctos cinereus
Conservation Status Near Threatened
Location Eastern Australia
Colour Grey
Length 65 - 82 cm (26 - 32 inches)
Tail 1 - 2 cm (0.4 - 0.75 inches)
Weight 4 - 15 Kgs (8.75 - 33 lbs)
Life Expectancy Up to 15 Yrs (in Captivity)

Main Characteristics


Koalas are thickset arboreal marsupials. They have a body length between 65 and 82 cms (26 - 32 inches), a tail length between 1 and 2 cms (0.4 - 0.75 inches) and they weigh between 4 and 15 Kgs (8.75 - 33 lbs).

Their fur is thick and grey. Their chin, chest and inner fore limbs are coloured white and they have a large leathery nose. Koalas have large ears that are fringed with white coloured hair and they have small tails. They have a pouch that opens to the rear and contains two teats to enable them to rear their young.

Koalas have strong sharp claws and on their fore paws the first two digits oppose the other three to enable them to have a strong grip on branches as they climb. Koalas are one of the few mammals (apart from primates) that have fingerprints and they are remarkably similar to human fingerprints.

Koalas spend approximately 80% of their time sleeping, 10% eating and the remaining 10% just sitting. They are excellent climbers but are slow walkers when on the ground. They are generally quiet animals except during the breeding season when males bellow.

Koalas have an unusually small brain, with approximately 40% of the cranial cavity being filled with fluid. They are the only animal on earth with such a strangely reduced brain.

Habitat

Koalas are found in the eucalypt forests of Eastern Australia. They are solitary animals that have a fixed home range. The size of a home range depends on the resources available. The ranges of dominant males will overlap with those of up to 9 females and subordinate males.

Diet

Koalas are herbivores and their diet consists almost entirely of eucalyptus leaves. They feed on leaves of 30 different species of eucalyptus and they also eat foliage from leptospermum, acacias and melaleuca.

They consume 500g (1.1 lbs) of leaves per day and they feed at any time, although mainly during the night.

Eucalyptus is not the best choice of food for a herbivore as it is low in nutrients, difficult to digest and contains toxins. Koalas are adapted to this as they are able to detoxify the poison in their liver and they have the longest intestinal pouch (caecum) of all mammals. Their intestinal pouch reaches up to 7 m (23 ft) in length and it aids digestion.

Eucalyptus leaves contain strong smelling oils that act as a bug repellent and keep the Koala free from parasites.

Koalas obtain all the water they need from their food so they rarely need to drink.

Breeding

Koalas mate from November - March and after a gestation period of 35 days, 1 joey will be born. At birth they are hairless, blind, earless and they weigh less than 0.5 g (0.02 oz). During birth the joey crawls into its mother pouch and attaches itself to one of her two teats.

The joey will remain in its mothers pouch for about
5 - 6 months while it develops, and during this time it will feed only upon milk. At 6 months the joey will be weaned, and it will begin to eat partially digested vegetation in its mothers excrement called "pap".

After 7 months the joey will leave its mother's pouch and cling to her back. They will become independent after 1 year but they will stay close to their mother for the first few months.

Females become sexually mature at 2 - 3 years of age, males at 3 - 4 years of age. During the breeding season the males will constantly bellow to attract females, and scare off other males. The dominant males do most of the mating.

Predators

Predators of Koalas are dogs, foxes and dingos.

They are most vulnerable to attack when they move along the ground between trees.

Interesting Facts

Koala is an aboriginal word meaning "no drink"

Koalas are Australia's national emblem.

Although they are often referred to as Koala Bears, they are not bears.

Aboriginal names for Koalas include:
Gula
Cullawines
Karbors
Bangaroos
Koolewongs
Narnagoons
Colos

Koalas have a very small brain. It is less than 0.2% of their body weight.

The Koalas scientific name comes from the Greek phaskolos meaning "pouch", arktos meaning "bear" and the Latin cinereus meaning "ash-coloured".
 


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