Animal Awareness Tip – Koala

Maideline Sanchez

The koala is found in the coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia. The color of their thick fur varies in shades of grey to brown, and they are set with large rounded ears and sharp claws to facilitate climbing. Koalas contain five fingers with two opposable thumbs, which provide better gripping ability when climbing trees.
The size of a koala depends on the region where they live, the largest being southern males weighing 14kg and northern females weighing 5kg.  These animals are generally silent marsupials. However, during mating season, males will give a very loud advertising call, which can be heard from up to a kilometer away. In captivity, koalas may live for up to 18 years of age.

When a female reaches maturity at two to three years of age, she will mate with a three to four year old male who is also at his maturation stage. A female may produce one young every year, with a gestation period of 35 days. Joeys (a baby koala) are born hairless, blind, and earless. Once born, they crawl into the downward pouch located on the mother’s belly. They attach themselves to one of the two teats and remain in the pouch for another six months until they fully develop. After their fur, eyes, and ears are fully formed, they explore outside of the pouch and consume the mother’s pap, which are eucalyptus leaves inoculated with microbes that are released from cecum. A joey will remain with its mother for another six months, riding on her back until it is completely weaned off its mothers’ milk.

Did You Know?
Koalas rarely drink water, because they obtain most of their source from eucalyptus trees. Because they are set with bacteria that can break down toxins from the eucalyptus leaves, they are able to consume them without becoming sick. Other animals, especially humans, can be poisoned when these leaves are ingested.