From the time early settlers from Europe first laid eyes on koalas in Australia, they didn’t understand what kind of animal it was. Some thought these were monkeys because koalas can climb trees, others guessed it was a type of small bear, but they were wrong. Koalas are actually related to the kangaroo and wombat, even though many people refer to them as “koala bears” they are actually marsupials.
Female marsupials have pouches that are meant to hold their young, it functions as a safe place until they fully develop. However, unlike kangaroos, koala pouches are located lower on the stomach and requires the mother to use her sphincter muscle to keep the pouch closed, so that the little joey – baby koala, doesn’t fall out. Pregnancy lasts up to 35 days, and once born, a baby koalas will instinctively crawl from the birth canal towards the pouch where it will reside as it grows, just like a kangaroo joey.
Koalas are not big animals, although southern koalas are larger than northern koalas, these can reach 85 cm in length, and weigh as much as 13 kg.
Natural Instincts and Habitat of Koalas
By their very nature, koalas like to climb, and they live a comfortable tree-dwelling life. Thick fur and tough skin allows koalas to perch snugly between branches for many hours. Their strong forepaws are ideal for gripping tree branches which allows them to climb high enough to reach eucalyptus leaves for nourishment. Interesting to note, although there are hundreds of types of eucalyptus trees, they are finicky eaters and will seek out trees with the best tasting leafs.
The digestive system of these animals effectively breaks down fiber of tree branches, bark, and even the toxins in eucalyptus trees that are poisonous to other animals. Their low calorie diet and slow movie nature, koalas need a lot of sleep, approximately 20 hours per day.
Protecting Koalas and Their Natural Environment
Koalas are a native species of Australia, and they depend on native plants to survive, such as eucalyptus trees. That is why protecting natural forests of eucalyptus trees is important, for the sake of koalas and other animals that depend on them.
Many of Australia’s native animals suffer from large land development projects, and without any effort to bring public awareness to animals such as the koala, many of Australia’s native animals are in danger of being lost.
Black Snake Productions is a wildlife conservation group that promotes awareness of Australia’s native animals by offering interactive education programs for children and adults. You can discover Australia’s unique animals with a hands-on, interactive educational program by Black Snake Production. See animals such as the koala, birds, reptiles, and other animals, and learn how you too can promote wildlife conservation at your school or in your neighbourhood.