You cannot deny it, koalas are super cute – there is just something about them that makes you want to cuddle them. By now you know that koalas are not bears; they are marsupials (mothers who carry their babies in their pouches, like kangaroos). Let’s find out what else are cool about them.
1. Cuteness overload
There is something so cute about koalas – you instinctively want to cuddle them, and their looks are quite distinctive. The koala looks like a stuffed teddy bear who has come to life – no wonder people mistakenly call them ‘bears’. Although they can become aggressive if they feel threatened or are in mating season, koalas will rather try to avoid a confrontation.
2. Mama and joey
To add to the cuteness of the koala, you will often see pictures of baby koalas on their mothers’ backs. The way the baby – called a joey – clings to his mother is so precious. Being a marsupial, when the baby is born, he climbs immediately into his mother’s pouch, where he will stay for about six months. And then, he will continue to take a free ride on his mother’s back for another six months or so.
3. Fussy eater
If ever anybody says that you’re a fussy eater, tell them that at least you’re not as bad as a koala. These animals only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree, and not just any leaves – they want the top leaves. And they can eat up to about 1kg a day. To top that, they only eat 50 of the more than 700 species of eucalyptus trees available!
4. Toxic food
If you know a bit about plants, you’ll know that leaves from the eucalyptus tree are toxic to most animals. Koalas have a secret weapon to digest these usually toxic leaves – they have a caecum, which is a special fibre-digesting organ that can break down the toxic chemicals in the leaves.
5. Meaning of koala
The word ‘koala’ sounds so strange, and you cannot help but wonder who came up with such a name. But it isn’t so weird after all – it is an Aboriginal (native people from Australia) word that means ‘no water’. They gave the koala the name, thinking that they don’t drink water at all.
6. Water from plants
The name is actually a bit misleading. Although the koala gets most of his water requirements from his food, he still drinks water from a water source, like a dam, especially when it is hot or dry. But because they’re not often spotted on the ground or drinking water, the Aboriginals thought they didn’t drink water at all.
7. Declining numbers
Due to many reasons, like deforestation, the numbers of koalas in the wild are steadily declining. Aside from the fact that that there are fewer eucalyptus trees to feed from, the koala is not the cleverest of animals, and prefers to stay in his comfort zone, rather than finding new feeding grounds. Then, with all the trees being cut down, they are forced to spend time on the ground, making them vulnerable to predators.
8. Snoozing away
Imagine being able to sleep at least 18 hours a day – wouldn’t that be awesome? That is exactly how the koala chooses to spend his day. This has nothing to do with the rumours that they get high on the eucalyptus leaves – it’s because the leaves are so low in nutrients that the koalas have to sleep to save energy. They are also nocturnal animals, meaning they sleep for most of the day and are more active at night.
In the wild, you will most probably find a koala high up in the eucalyptus trees, either eating or sleeping. And you will need to travel to Australia to see them – they’re mostly found in the south-eastern and eastern parts of the country.
The koala is well adapted to living up in the trees – he is a small animal who weighs only about 14kg and is between 60 and 85cm long. He has a light grey fur coat, with claws that can hang on to tree branches, even when he is asleep.