This arboreal marsupial is native to Australia and spends his lazy days sleeping in trees and consuming large amounts of eucalyptus leaves.
Koalas are solitary and only meet to mate. After a pregnancy of just 35 days, a tiny, hairless baby is born and uses smell and touch to make his way into his mother’s pouch. There he latches on to a teat. He stays in there for six months, drinking milk and developing. A few weeks before he comes out his mother starts to feed him ‘pap’ – her own faecal matter that helps to develop the baby’s system and adapts him to eating eucalyptus leaves (which are actually poisonous).
The baby makes his way out of the pouch and rides on his mother’s back or abdomen, sometimes going back into her pouch (until he gets too big to do this). Interestingly, the pouch does not open from the top the way a kangaroo’s does – it opens at the front. The mother uses strong sphincter muscles to keep the baby safely inside.
In the early 1900s, koala numbers declined rapidly due to the flourishing trade in pelts. Though hunting them is now illegal, koalas face new threats – mostly due to habitat loss. Koalas are solely reliant on eucalyptus leaves to survive as it is their only food source. Up to 80% of their original habitat has been cleared by humans. On top of that, up to 4,000 koalas are killed by cars and dogs every year. It is very difficult to estimate wild populations as koalas have such a large and widespread distribution, but claims have placed it at anywhere between 43,000 and 300,000.