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 Koala bear information and facts

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Common Names
Koala, Koala bear, Native bear, Monkey bear

Scientific Name
Phascolarctos cinereus

Koalas are often called as "koala bears" - this is not correct. Koala is not a bear but a marsupial. The closest relative of koala is a wombat, which also has cute and cuddly appearance, but it's never called a "wombat bear"

Koala information

Some history of koala bear

Size: 70 - 90cm (27 - 36 inch)
Weight: 4 - 9kg (9 - 20 lb)
The males are larger than females.
Southern koalas are 30% larger than the Northern koalas

Koala's fur is thick soft and pleasant to touch. Ears have long white hairs on the tips.

Koalas can live as long as 17 years, however males life expectancy is less than 10 years (due to injuries during fights, dogs and cars). Females generally live longer. Koalas living in an undisturbed habitat would have a greater life expectancy than those living in suburbia.

Koalas prefer to move around just after sunset spending daytimes asleep in the fork of a tree. Koala spends sleeping 75% of its time. Just after sunset koalas move around and can often be heard "barking" aggressively at other koalas.

Fossil remains of koala-like animals have been found dating back to 25 - 40 million years ago.

Koalas, like all Australian animals, are an important part of Aboriginal culture and featured in many myths and legends. 

John Price was the first European who described koalas 1798.
In 1816, the koala was given its scientific name, phascolarctos cinereus, meaning 'ash grey pouched bear'. 

European settlers identified the koala as a source of fur to trade, and millions of koalas were shot for their pelts.
By 1924 koalas were extinct in South Australia, severely depleted in New South Wales and estimates for Victoria go as low as 500 animals.
Public forced governments in all states to declare the koala a 'Protected Species' by the late 1930's.

Presently, up to 4,000 koalas are being killed each year by cars and dogs

Koala habitat facts

State Estimated population

koala distribution map

Queensland 50'000
Victoria and South Australia 15'000
New South Wales 15'000

Koalas live in eucalypt forests of Eastern and South-Eastern Australia.

Koalas habitat requirements include the presence of other koalas and preferred food trees.

Koalas are found in a range of habitats, from coastal islands and tall eucalypt forests to low woodlands inland.  Their habitat quality can be measured by density of the food trees. Koalas do not live in rainforest.

Socially stable koala population occurs only when there are primary food tree species present. Koalas live in societies, so they need to be able to come into contact with other koalas and this is why they require large areas of suitable eucalypt forest which is able to support a healthy koala population. 

Even after a koala has died, other koalas usually won’t move into the vacant territory for about a year, or until  the scent markings and scratches of the old owner disappear.

Koala feeding facts

Koala is the only mammal, other than the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum, which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves.
Koala seldom drinks water obtaining it from the eucalyptus leaves, which are 50% consisting of water. Although, they can drink water if due to drought the leaves water content is reduced.
Koalas consume eucalyptus leaves and bark from 12 different eucalyptus tree species. They also consume mistletoe and box leaves.
Koala in Victoria would have different diet from koala in Queensland as different species of eucalypts grow in different parts of Australia.
Sometimes koalas eat leaves from other trees such as wattle tree, tea tree, paperbark tree.

Each koala eats approximately 200 to 500 grams of leaves per day. 

Koalas have a slow metabolic rate due to their high-fiber, low nutrient diet. Because they store little or no fat, koalas must adopt strategies that conserve energy. Sleeping is one of them.
Koalas sleep for up to 16 hours per day in order to conserve energy.
A very slow metabolic rate optimizes its energy requirements and allows koalas to retain food within their digestive system for a relatively long period of time, maximizing the amount of extracted energy.

Eucalyptus foliage is very fibrous and low in nutrition, and to most animals are extremely poisonous.
Koalas are not drugged out on gum leaves. Koala's digestive system is especially adapted to detoxify the poisonous chemicals in the leaves.

Koalas have a very long (up to 200cm / 6.5 feet) caecum - a fiber digesting organ. It's a part of the intestine, which allows more time for bacteria to break down the otherwise indigestible eucalypti fiber. Even so, the koala is still only able to absorb 25% of fiber eaten.

The young koala drinks only mother's milk for the first six to seven months.
At about 30 weeks, it begins to feed upon a substance called "pap" which the mother produces in addition to milk. Pap is a specialized form of droppings, which forms an important part of the young koala's diet, allowing it to make the transition from milk to eucalyptus leaves.
Pap is soft and runny. It allows the mother to pass on micro-organisms from her digestive system.
The young koala continues to take milk from its mother until it is about a year old, but as it can no longer fit in the pouch, the mother's teat elongates to protrude from the pouch opening.
Eventually young koala begins to feed upon fresh leaves as it rides on mother's back.

Koala breeding information

Koalas breed once a year.
Mating normally occurs from September to March
Gestation lasts 35 days, after which one koala is born.
The baby koala, "joey", is blind, hairless, less than one inch long and weighs less than 1 gram (0.035 oz).
It then crawls into its mothers pouch completely unaided, relying on its sense of smell, strong forelimbs and claws.

Once inside the pouch, baby koala attaches itself to one of the two teats and stays there drinking milk for the next six months.

Females generally start breeding at about three or four years of age and usually produce only one baby koala each year.
Twins have been reported, but are rare.
In the average, one female may produce only 5 or 6 baby koalas over her lifetime.

Young koalas remain with their mothers until the appearance outside the pouch of the next season's joey. If a female does not reproduce each year, the young koala stays with her longer and has a greater chance of survival.

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