16 Koala Facts: They’re Dull And Don’t Understand What Rain Is

Koalas are one of two iconic animals in Australia. These cute animals can melt even the hardest hearts in a blink. They’re one of the most unique creatures on the planet. Let’s find out interesting facts about koalas.

Scientific name: Phascolarctos cinereus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Diprotodontia

1. Koalas aren’t bears

Koalas are commonly known as “koala bears” because they look like a bear. However, koalas are not bear, they are marsupials. The term ‘marsupial’ in Latin word means ‘pouch.’ Most female marsupials have a permanent pouch in which to raise their offspring. They are the unique animals in the phascolarctidae family.

Besides the species that you usually see in eucalyptus trees, there were Giant koalas that are bigger and heavier. Like most of Australia’s “megafauna”, these giant animals became extinct about 50,000 years ago. It was considered that present koalas were the dwarf successors of those archaic mammals.

Koalas spend most of their lives on trees, which could hurt their butt. However, thanks to the strong cartilage at the end of their curved spine, they can healthily live there.

Since koalas are wild animals; they are not particularly friendly and prefer to avoid all contact with humans. They are not dangerous, however, they can be aggressive if they feel threatened or terrified. There’s a chance that they will attack and bite humans.

With a cute and cuddling appearance, Koalas quickly steal the hearts of adults and children. But you can keep them as pets since it’s illegal, even in Australia.

Fun Fact:
These species release up to 360 small pellets of feces per day, even when in sleep. These feces help to fertilize the forest floor and aid in the growth and regeneration of woods.  

2. Koalas sleep more than 20 hours a day

The koala is very lazy, they sleep from 18 – 22 hours per day. However, everything has its own reason. Koalas sleep so much because of their diet. This creature needs lots of energy to chew and break down the tough eucalyptus leaves, but those leaves are not really innutritious. Koalas don’t have enough nutrition, they become sluggish and need to sleep more and more to conserve their energy. When they are not sleeping, they usually eat.

The koala is one of the laziest animals on the planet, you may read more related articles below:

3. Characteristics

The Koala lacks an external tail. However, they still have remnants of a tail in their skeletal structure. This feature is also presented in the wombat’s. Although having no tail, the animal still exhibits remarkable balance. They have a slim, muscular body, sturdy arms, strong legs, and sharp claws, which are ideal for tree climbing. Because they are not familiar with the ground, they walk very slowly. But when being disrupted, they can speed up to 30km per hour. They can even swim if they have a way to escape from the water.

Koalas can protect themselves from harsh temperatures with their thick and woolly fur. Their coat also plays a role as a raincoat to resist moisture when it rains.

Koalas have white fur patches inside their ears, on their neck, chin, and chest, within their front limbs and occasionally on the rear of their hind limbs, and typically on their rump. In the center of a mature male’s white chest, there’s a dark scent gland releasing a dark, sticky substance. He rubs it on his trees to mark his territory to other koalas.

4. They have strong senses

One of the Koala’s most distinguishing characteristics is its abnormally huge and leathery nose. With their strong sense of smell, they can discriminate degrees of toxins in eucalyptus leaves and detect the toxin level in the leaves at any given time. This sense also helps them detect the fragrance warnings that other Koalas have placed on trees.

The excellent ability is believed to be highly formed at birth, helping the blind and weak newborn joey find its way to the pouch via the scent of the mother’s milk from the pouch’s teats. They also have distinct patterns on their nose that assist wildlife researchers in identifying and tracking them.

Kolas also have a strong sense of hearing due to their big ears. The feature is required for socialization with other Koalas because they can exist in communities where each Koala lives a long distance apart. In contrast to their nose and ears, their vision is not soo good.

5. Koalas have fingerprints

Koalas, like humans, have fingerprints. Except for primates, they are the only animals having this feature. Their fingerprints are so similar to ours that you can’t tell the difference between them even under a microscope.

They have thumbs as well. But unlike us, they have two opposable thumbs on each front paw. Those thumbs are used for climbing, grabbing trees, and grasping food. On the back paws, their second and third digits are joined together to form a grooming claw, like a built-in hairbrush.

With the long claws and climbing ability, koalas can easily jump from branch to branch and even from tree to tree. This is way much safer than going down to the ground to switch trees. They don’t have to face the threats like wild cats and dogs.

6. The young koalas are very attached to their moms

Baby koalas are known as joeys. They are born very early with the size of a peanut (about 2 centimeters long and a weight of less than 1 gram). This newborn creature is blind and hairless and spends six months in its mother’s pouch growing and developing.

It uses highly evolved senses of smell, touch, and orientation to navigate its way to the pouch, and attach itself to a teat. When it is attached, the teat swells in its mouth, preventing them from being removed from its feeding supply and allowing its mother to move freely.

Koala babies are very attached to the mother

(The pouch of a female koala opens from the bottom, allowing the mother to walk up tree branches without the pouch being entangled and preventing it from filling with wood and leaves.)

The baby stays in the pouch for around 6 months, followed by another 6 months to sit on her abdomen or back. During this time, it keeps coming back to the mother’s pouch to take milk until it is too large to fit inside. Depending on when the mother delivers her next joey, the current joey will leave its mother’s home range around 1 and 3 years old.

Koala babies aren’t the only ones who are called joeys! All marsupial babies are referred to as joeys, including kangaroo, possum, and sugar glider joeys.  

7. They eat a lot and are very picky

Koalas can’t eat any other food except for poisonous, fibrous, and innutritious eucalyptus leaves. Koalas and only two other animals can thrive on this diet. Thanks to its extremely lengthy caecum (200 centimeters), this creature can detoxify the toxins in the leaves, digest and break down the fiber in them. However, they cannot absorb all of the nutrients in these leaves, just 25% of what they eat. That’s the reason why they have to eat so much like that.

An adult Koala consumes approximately 0.5 – 1 kilogram of leaves per night. Being nocturnal, they spend 3 hours a night just eating. With the huge number of food like that, it’s easy to understand why they needs to sleep 18-20 hours a day.

A koala is eating eucalyptus leaves

Eucalyptus leaves are Koala’s diet, but they are quite picky about which type to eat. Among 700+ kinds of eucalyptus trees in Australia, they just eat about 50 of them. Individuals often have 1-3 eucalyptus species to eat regularly, saving others for the occasional snack. To get the more juicy and nutritious leaves, they will climb to the top of the highest trees.

With joeys, they have a different diet. For the first six to seven months, the joey solely drinks milk from the mother. In the next 22 to 30 weeks, it consumes a soft porridge known as “pap” which is a great source of protein. This special kind of food includes the mother’s droppings, allowing her to pass on her unique microorganisms to her young.

The joey’s body learns how to consume gum leaves in this manner. Before coming out from the pouch, it eats pap for a few weeks. Joeys typically leave their mothers at the age of 18 months.

8. They don’t really need water

The name Koala comes from Aboriginal people and it means “no drink”. These animals don’t really need much water, they already consume it through their food – eucalyptus leaves. On very hot summer days, however, water in eucalyptus leaves evaporates, and they may need to take more water. They can drink from water holes and rivers if needed.

You can bring a thirsty koala some water if you come across one during fire season or a heat wave. Just don’t pour water directly into their mouth from the bottle. They must drink the beverage at their own speed, otherwise, the water will overflow their lungs and cause pneumonia.

9. Koala reproductions

Females typically begin reproducing at three to four years old and produce one child every year. However, not all females will reproduce annually; some only do every two or three years, depending on age, environment quality, and other factors. During the average female’s 12-year lifetime, she may have five or six children.

These species normally reproduce in the late spring and early summer, when females go through estrus several times before finding a partner.

– Finding a partner

In the breeding season, males promote themselves to estrus females by marking trees with their smells and generating loud mating noises known as bellows. Males may physically battle each other in competing for a female in some instances.

After hearing a favorite bellow, the female will go on a quest to find him in his natural habitat. When a male discovers a female in his territory, he will come to her in a tree, and keep smelling her when approaching.

If the female does not want to mate with him, she will cry out. The male can try to force her but it usually doesn’t work. The female will do anything she can to refuse him: bite, scratch, go away, and even hop to another branch to escape.

When a female accepts a male, they will mate rapidly. From behind, the male climbs onto the female, bites her nape, and quickly intercourse with her. Male koalas, like kangaroos and most other marsupials, have a double-headed penis. On the other hand, females have two vaginas, the third one will emerge later to carry the joey and then closes.

– Mating and Gestation

After mating, the male leaves, and the female comes back to her home range. She then experiences a short gestation period and gives birth to one baby (called joey) in approximately 35 days.

When born, the joey finds its way to the pouch on its own. It attaches itself to a teat once inside its mother’s pouch. When the joey gets the age of 6-7 months, it transitions from milk to gumleaves. The young Koala grows faster after it starts eating gumleaves.

A joey

When the young is about a year old, it can live an independent life. It leaves their mothers in order to find new home ranges which have the correct tree species, good gumleaves, and are close to other Koalas.

Female Koalas reach sexual maturity at the age of two, this age in males is three or four. Although having the ability to reproduce, males may not pair for several years because younger males can’t compete with older rivals having bigger sizes.

10. They live alone

Koalas are loners; they stay at their home ranges and do not cross the borders of others. The size range of each koala varies according to age, sex, social standing, and habitat quality. Climate crisis, deforestation, and many human activities have forced koalas tighter together, which stresses them out.

Koalas have a scent. The mature males have a deeper, muskier odor, whereas females and young males have a mild eucalyptus odor that acts as a natural insect repellant!

11. They are not very smart

Among all mammals, koalas feature the lowest brain-to-body mass ratios. They don’t have higher levels of awareness and comprehension like other animals. If you collect a load of Eucalyptus leaves, place them on a plate, and put it in front of a koala, it will have no idea what to do with that plate. It just sits and stares at it.

Another example of their flat brain is that they don’t understand what rain is. They’ll just sit in the rain, confused about why they’re getting wet until it stops.

Despite being stupid, this creature can still survive due to the tiny energy that their brains use. This is the main key to thrive on toxic and nutritionally deficient diet of eucalyptus leaves.

12. They make a loud noise

Koalas appear to be quite silent, but they make noises to communicate with one another. While joeys make adorable squeaking sounds, adults make the loud sound like a revving motorcycle.

13. Denfisive habits

How does the koala protect itself? They defend themselves from their main predators like dingoes and large owls by staying in trees. Thanks to their gray and white coloring, they may hide in the treetops. Because of their gray and white coloring, they may hide in the treetops. When predators peer into the treetops, their color resembles that of the sky.

They can also use their sharp teeth as a defensive strategy by shredding through the skin layer and injuring predators. Furthermore, Koala bears’ front and hind paws have strong talon-like claws. Because the species are exceptionally strong, an attack with bared claws can take down medium-sized enemies.

14. Lifespan

When living in adequate settings, koalas have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. However, predators, climate change, habitat degradation, and many other factors can drastically reduce their lifetime. Bacteria and parasites pose a greater threat to the animal than predators. Furthermore, around the age of six, their chewing teeth begin to be damaged. The teeth eventually fall out, and the they starves to death.

Females live longer than males because males are more frequently hurt during fights and live in a worse environment. They also move longer distances.

Koalas in their natural habitat would have a longer life expectancy than those in suburbia. An adult wild male Koala can live for ten years, however, this lifespan only lasts two or three years if it lives near a roadway or a housing area.

Koala Midori of Japan is currently the oldest koala in captivity. It was born in February 1997 and it’s now living in Awaji Farm Park England Hill in Japan.

15. They are native to Australia

While koalas are a national icon of Australia’s distinctive nature, they can only be found in the wild along the coastlines of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. They live in eucalyptus trees of forests and sit between the tree’s forks.

Koalas in the south are much larger and have thicker and browner fur than those from the north. This could be because the winter in the south is very harsh and they need such a coat to keep them warm.

16. Koalas are losing their homes

Koalas aren’t officially considered endangered. However, there are less than 80,000 left in the wild, according to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF).

They lost their home because of deforestation and have nowhere to go. In the last two years, deforestation in New South Wales has tripled, leaving crucial koala habitats extremely fragmented or altogether destroyed.

When there are no trees, they have to stay on the ground to look for food and shelter. And this is when they are by cars, attacked by dogs and cats, and become ill with stress-related infections such as chlamydia.

Many koala populations are susceptible to Chlamydia, which usually appears when they are stressed. The disease can result in blindness and infections of the reproductive tract. (Chlamydia cannot be passed on to humans).

Carbon dioxide also contributes to the fact that koalas are leaving their habitats. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can decrease the nutrition in eucalyptus leaves, making them innutritious and hungry. They have to leave their home to find a place with more nutrient-rich leaves. And this puts them in two main risks: road accidents and animal attacks.

Climate change with worsening droughts, heatwaves, and huge bushfires are going to speed up koala extinction on the east coast, even if their habitats aren’t destroyed. The bushfires in Australia in the 2019-2020 season alone killed 6,382 koalas. If we don’t do anything, koalas on Australia’s east coast may become extinct by 2050 (according to World Wildlife Fund – WWF).

Koala infographic

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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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