Interesting Facts about Koalas and How You Can Help
Most of us are familiar with koalas. Koalas are those cute, cuddly looking teddy bears found in Australia, often photographed sleeping in the nooks of trees. Travelers love them, and many visit Southern and Eastern Australia specifically to hold and snuggle them, hoping to capture the selfie of their dreams.
The sad truth is that they are in danger. Koala populations are on the decline. Hands-on tourism isn’t helpful and can even lead to the dangers koalas face. Can you imagine a world without koalas? That is a world I can’t imagine living in!
I’ve done a lot of reading about koalas. As I learned more about them, I realized there are so many misconceptions about these animals. There is a lot to know. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the better equipped we can be to save them.
Here are a few things you never know about koalas and how you can help save them:
They are not bears.
Koalas are often referred to as “koala bears,” which isn’t true. While they do resemble teddy bears, they are marsupials. The most unusual characteristic of marsupials is that they carry their young in a pouch on their front where they continue their development.
They are found in eucalyptus forests.
Because of their habitat of choice in eucalyptus forests, they are primarily impacted by the deforestation in Australia. Nearly 80% of koala habitat has been removed, and they are faced with nowhere to go. Because of this, other threats like cars, dogs, and illness are increasing the number of threats to koalas.
They are fussy eaters.
Koalas have a diet of eucalyptus leaves, which to most animals is poisonous, hard to chew, and challenging to digest. The koala is equipped with a caecum, an organ that compliments their digestive system and helps detox the leaves. But not all eucalyptus tree species are equal, koalas eat fewer than 50 of over 700 tree species, and even then they are known to eat leaves from the tallest trees. They’ve got big appetites too, eating nearly 1 kg of leaves each day!
Their babies are called Joeys, and they feed on their mother’s droppings.
A baby koala is known as a “joey,” but they have an interesting gestation period. A female koala generally gives birth to just one joey in a year, but most often not each year. The joey is born a tiny 2cm long, blind, furless, and with few features. They make a journey to their mother’s pouch where they will finish their development after attaching to a teat. They remain here for the next 6 or 7 months feeding on milk and “pap” which is a form of their mother’s droppings.
They are night owls.
Well, not specifically owls, but they are nocturnal! Most koalas are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and waking at night.
The word Koala means ‘No Water’.
This is because Koalas get all the water they need from eucalyptus leaves.
One of their biggest threats is Chlamydia.
Huge populations koalas suffer from Chlamydia. For some wild populations, the chlamydia rate is 100%, while not all members show signs or symptoms. Koalas that do show signs of the illness are often suffering from stress due to loss of habitat, dog attacks, lack of food, etc. The virus can be passed through various ways including sexually, and through the eating of pap as young, although it is a different strain from the chlamydia that affects humans. Treatment is required through antibiotics but does not guarantee the survival of infected koalas.
They are big sleepers.
Like teenage boys, koalas are big sleepers. They often sleep up to 18 hours per day due to the low nutrients in their food of choice, eucalyptus leaves. Sleeping helps them to preserve their energy, which they need for all that tree-climbing and eating.
Want the chance to see koalas in person and help save them in the process? We are so happy to partner with Echidna Walkabout, a significant player in responsible, conservation-minded tours around Australia. Check out 4 of their trips they have listed on SEEtheWILD, including this exciting Australian Wildlife Tour.
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Sarah is a travel writer, citizen of the world and lover of the Pacific Northwest and tacos. When not writing she can be found searching for her next travel destination or exploring with her dog, Otto.
Read about her adventures on her blog Sarah Seize the World and follow her on Instagram @sarahseizetheworld