Koalas are some of the cutest animals in existence. You cannot help but say ‘Awww’ when you see their adorable noses and fuzzy bodies. They look a lot like a real-life teddy bear but these fuzzy animals shouldn’t be underestimated.
Koala bears are native to Australia and are members of the Phascolarcitidae family. They may look a lot like a bear but are not members of the bear family. Instead, they are closer to the wombat animal species and are in fact marsupials.
These beautiful animals can grow up to 85cm in length and can weigh up to 15 kilograms. Their colors also differ. Some are silver-grey while others can be a chocolate brown color.
Koalas are endangered animals because they were excessively hunted during the 20th century for their fur and because their natural habitat was greatly reduced. Climate changes and bushfires also had a huge impact on their population.
Today, governments and nature conservations work hard to keep these animals protected and to grow suitable foods so these animals can flourish.
Koala bears are herbivores which mean they only eat plant matter. One of the reasons they are so endangered is due to their diet. These animals do not eat a huge variety of food types. Even though they are fussy eaters, they are still a lot more diverse in their diet compared to other marsupials. Here is a quick look at some of the most common foods that koalas enjoy eating.
Koalas eat only Eucalyptus plants. They love to eat eucalyptus leaves. There are over 600 different species of eucalyptus tree and koalas will feed about three dozen of these species. These fluffy animals are especially fond of Eucalyptus microcorys, E. tereticornis, and E. camaldulensis. These three are their absolute favorite foods and favorite eucalyptus species and usually make up for about 20% of the koala’s diet.
Because koalas rely on eucalyptus trees for survival, they are only found in regions where lots of eucalyptus trees grow freely. The leaves of eucalyptus are poisonous to various other animal species. The koala bear is however tolerant to these toxins.
Eucalyptus leaves contain lots of fiber but aren’t extremely high in nutrition and koalas do have a very slow metabolic rate. Koalas need 18 – 22 hours of sleep per day so they can digest their food and because of the low energy and nutritional value of eucalyptus leaves.
Eucalyptus trees store a lot of water in their leaves. Because of this, koalas usually do not need to drink water. They also get some of their moisture by absorbing moisture on leaves. Large koalas and especially adults do however often need to drink water when they cannot get enough water from just leaves. In drought areas, koalas might also need to drink water.
Koalas do not have any diet variations. If there are no suitable eucalyptus plants available to them, they can starve to death. They are unable to digest other plant types other than eucalyptus species.
Koalas need to consume fresh eucalyptus leaves because they need the moisture in these plants to stay hydrated. They will chew on the leaves of eucalyptus trees to get all their needed nutrients. In drought areas, they also need to drink water.
In the wild, koalas only feed on eucalyptus plants and they only feed on a few varieties of eucalyptus. Because of this, they need to are only found in regions where these suitable tree varieties grow. Most koalas don’t need to drink water in the wild since they get all their needed moisture from the eucalyptus leaves.
In animal parks and conservations, koalas are offered fresh eucalyptus leaves every day. Ideally, koalas are supplied with a few different species of eucalyptus because different types may offer different nutritional benefits. They are also offered fresh water daily even though most koalas won’t drink water at all.
Koalas are mammals. Baby koalas are called joeys and are the size of a jellybean when they are born. They don’t have any hair, ears, and they are completely blind. The mother will keep the joey in a front pouch in her body while the baby koala is still developing.
Koalas have teats inside their pouches. The baby joey will suckle on one of these and continue to develop. Because kola milk is so low in energy, the baby will continue to suckle for up to 12 months. Joeys only start to peek out from the pouch when they are 26 weeks old.
When the joey reaches the age of 6 months, it will be introduced to solids but it is not ready to chew on leaves just yet. The joey is supplied with a eucalyptus pap that the female secrets. At this time, the joey will also emerge from the pouch to explore its environment.
The joey only needs to consume the high protein pap for about one month before it will be ready to start feeding on eucalyptus leaves. It will slowly increase consumption and will completely leave the pouch when it is about 9 months old.
An average koala eats about 200 – 500 grams of leaves per day. They have sharp front teeth to help them nip the leaves from trees.
Koalas only feed for up to 6 hours per day but they do need to feed every day so they can stay nourished. The rest of the time is spent sleeping and digesting the food they ate.
Most koalas do not need to drink water. They get all their needed moisture from the leaves they eat. But large male koalas might need to drink water if they cannot get enough moisture from their food. Kolas can also drink water in dry seasons or when it is extremely hot.
Typically, these animals do not bite. They are not known to be aggressive. But a koala can bite if they feel threatened or scared. They are, however, more likely to scratch you with their long nails than they are to bite you. These animals are not very fast and do not have a lot of energy. But if they feel threatened they can become quite aggressive and they can bite very hard.
It is best to avoid handling a wild koala as much as possible. Their bites can be quite painful and can even require stitches.