The Koala is an arboreal (tree dwelling), herbivorous (plant eating) marsupial. Koalas have thick woolly fur which protects them from the extremes of both high and low temperatures, and which also acts like a ‘raincoat’ to repel moisture when it rains. The fur varies in colour from light grey to brown. Koalas in the south generally tend to have fur which is darker and thicker, and sometimes browner, than those in the north. Koalas have patches of white fur on their chin, chest and neck, inside the front limbs and sometimes on the back of the hind limbs, and usually in patches on their rump.
Koalas are only found in Australia. Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia are the only states where koalas are found naturally in the wild.
10 - 12 years in the wild and 13 -15 years in captivity.
Male: length: 67 -82cm, weight: 5 -15kg
Female: length: 64 - 73cm, weight: 4 -11kg
Koala is one of a few mammals that can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. Each Koala eats approximately 1/2 to 1 kilogram of leaves per day. In Australia there are over 600 types of eucalypts, but Koalas will not eat a large proportion of these. Koalas don’t normally need to drink water as they get all the moisture they need from the gum leaves. However, they can drink water when necessary, such as in times of drought.
Koalas live in tall eucalypt forests and low eucalypt woodlands.
The breeding season for Koalas is from August to February. Females generally start breeding at about 3 - 4 years of age and usually produce only one offspring each year. Once a female has conceived it is a short 35 days before the birth of the new baby, called a “joey”. The tiny joey which is roughly 2 centimetres long and weighs less than 1 gram, looks rather like a pink jellybean as it is totally hairless, blind and has no ears.
The young Koala drinks only mother’s milk for the first 6 - 7 months and remains in the pouch. From about 22 to 30 weeks, the joey must feed on a substance called ‘pap’ which is specialised form of the mothers droppings that is soft and runny. This allows for the mother to pass on special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for the joey to digest gum leaves.