The koala (or phascolarctos cinereus
) is an arboreal marsupial
that lives in the eucalypt
forests of Eastern Australia
Its body is well adapted
to a life of tree climbing
Although their vestigial
tail doesn't really serve any real purpose
, they have strong limb
s to assist with climbing and rough pads on their paw
s to assist with gripping branch
es and trunk
s. In appearance, the animal does resemble a teddy bear
, with a large round head, cute round furry ears
and a broad flat black nose
. Yet unlike teddy bears, koalas have sharp claws and teeth. Koalas were once killed for their soft
, ash/grey coloured fur
. This fur would later be sold in the USA
as 'wombat fur
', but in current times there are laws in place to prevent such acts from recurring. Koalas can grow up to 2 1/2 feet
in length, 6-13 kilograms
in weight and live for up to 20 years. Koalas from the southern area of the Australian mainland
tend to be larger than those from the north
, due to their extra bodyfat and thicker fur used to deal with the colder climate
These marsupials will give birth to one baby at a time, which will stay in its mother's pouch for 6 months after they enter the world. After this, the young koala will be carried on its mother's back until it has grown half its full size.
The word koala is meant to translate to 'no drink' in some aboriginal dialects. Funnily enough, koalas do not drink liquids but instead gain all the moisture they require from the eucalypt leaves they feed on.
A diet of almost strictly eucalypt leaves gives koala a high-fibre, low-nutrient diet. These eucalypt leaves are poisonous to most animals, with the exception of the koala, greater glider and ringtail possum. This means that most of the time koalas do not need to compete with other species for their food sources. Koalas are picky and will only eat a certain species of eucalypt depending on the season, their own personal preference and local conditions. All in all there are about 12 species of the plant that koalas are known to feast on.
However, this diet does come with a few disadvantages. Koalas have a slow metabolic rate and therefore store little fat. As a result, the animal needs to conserve as much energy as it can -- which is often done by sleeping 16 hours or more a day. Contrary to what some may believe, the koala's lethargic behaviour is not because they're drugged out on gumleaves!
Unfortunately, the destruction of Australian forests has posed a threat to the koala's future existence. Infact 80% of Australia's eucalypt forests have been wiped out since white people settled in Australia. The koala's fussy eating habits mean that its much harder for them to find leaves it will actually want to eat, and the overcrowding of forests means there is more competition for food.