Teddy Bears Here!
Koalas look like cuddly teddy bears, but are really members
of a very different and special group, the marsupials. One
marsupial you may be familiar with is the kangaroo. It carries its
young in a pouch, the trademark of marsupials. Most marsupials are
found on the island continent of Australia. North America has only
one representative marsupial, the opossum.
Life: This Is My Home
Koalas are not very friendly to each other. They do not interact
with each other except in territorial disputes and to mate. A male
koala "owns" about 15 trees in his territory. He
by urinating or rubbing a gland on his chest against a tree trunk
declaring ownership ofthat tree. The bellow of the male is low pitched
and can be heard for up to 800 meters. It may announce his presence
to other males or to females. Females wail, snarl, and scream to
are very small and underdeveloped when they are born. A newborn
koala weighs 1/50 of an ounce and is 3/4 of an inch long-about the
size of a peanut! Using powerful front legs and paws, it crawls
into its mother's pouch and attaches to a nipple in order to drink
milk, grow, and develop. By seven months of age, the joey pokes
its head out and gradually starts to explore, squeaking to call
for its mother. By 12 months the youngster is weaned, but
will return to the pouch for safety until it is 18 months old. Soon
after, the young koala leaves for good to find a home of its own.
In The Outback
A koala leads a slow-paced life. About 14.5 hours of its day
are spent sleeping, with another 4.8 hours resting. Foraging requires
another 4.7 hours, leaving only four minutes per day for travel!
Adaptations: How Do I Do What I Do?
Koalas are nocturnal or active at night, and it's late evening
when they move from tree to tree. Their front paws have long, sharp
claws, well adapted for climbing. Two of the digits function
as thumbs and are opposable to the other digits giving them
an excellent grip.
feed mainly on the leaves, shoots, soft stems, flowers, and bark
of the eucalyptus trees in which they live. It is a diet high in
fiber and low in protein. Their digestive system has a cecum
that contains microorganisms that help them digest their high
fiber diet. Since some types of eucalyptus are toxic during
certain seasons of the year, the cecum may also function to detoxify
the food. Generally, koalas sniff and accept or reject each leaf
they pick. Most of the water a koala needs is in the leaves that
Together We Can Make It Happen!
Even though koalas are common where they are found, they face
problems shared with wildlife all over the world. The most pressing
problem is loss of habitat. Many eucalyptus tracts are being cleared,
leaving "islands" of trees. Koalas do not move very far,
and certainly not very fast! Movement increases risk of predation
by Australian wild dogs. Perhaps even more important, scattered
habitat may keep them from finding mates. Planting trees as corridors
or pathways between the forest "islands" may help insure
many people all over the world know and love koalas. Concerned Australian
citizens have formed groups to help koalas by planting trees and
caring for those injured by domestic pets, highways or pesticides.
Australian government has strict laws to regulate exportation and
hunting of koalas. International law also protects them by regulating
trade of live koalas and koala products.