Amazing Animals: Koalas

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Amazing Animals: Koalas

Cadence Butler, Junior Editor

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The koala is one of the few mammals that are able to eat eucalyptus leaves. With teeth specially equipped for their diet, a koala can eat “between 200 to 500 grams of leaves each day” (Australian Koala Foundation). People believe that koalas get high off of the eucalyptus leaves but that’s not true. Eucalyptus leaves are very fibrous and low in nutrition which is why koalas have to sleep for 20 hours every day to conserve energy to help burn the eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas are marsupials. Marsupials are mammals.  Koala females are equipped with a pouch on their lower belly. Why a pouch you ask? Well, the pouch is for holding baby koalas! When a baby koala is born, they are the size of a jelly bean, and weigh 0.5 grams. When they’re older, koalas have soft, thick fur. Koalas have grey fur with a white underbelly. With the white usually starting below their necks. Koala ears usually have white fur tips too. According to KTWU, “Koalas average 27-36 in. (70 to 90 cm) in length and weigh anywhere from 9 to 20 lbs (4-9 kg).” The female koalas are slightly smaller than the males of their species. Koala paws have long sharp claws, especially equipped for gripping and digging into tree bark. On their front paws koalas have two opposable thumbs for gripping. Their hind paws have two fused fingers that they use to groom themselves.

Koalas are found in Australia. Hidden in the canopy of the eucalyptus trees or in the forked branches sleeping safely. Or so we thought. The AKF (American Koala Foundation) believes that the koala population could be less than 80,000. Which is horrible, but could most likely be due to eucalyptus deforestation, expanding communities, invasive animals, and sadly, us humans. Koalas don’t just eat eucalyptus leaves, they will occasionally eat other leaves from other native Australian trees. If you live in Australia or know someone who does, persuade them to plant more trees or protect the koala habitat. If you go on vacation to Australia and see a cute fuzzy koala, do not touch it. That koala might be a carrier of chlamydia. Koalas get a different strain of chlamydia than humans but we can still be affected by it from coming in contact with their urine.

I’ve already mentioned that koalas are marsupials, but I didn’t really explain what a marsupial is. A marsupial is a mammal that is born “incomplete”. They are born almost as an embryo, and immediately crawl into their mom’s pouch and attach themselves to one of their mom’s teats which are inside the pouch. After the joey, is in its mom’s pouch it will grow eyes, fur, and legs. The joey is blind and doesn’t even resemble a koala. The koala joey will drink milk from its mother for almost a year, but by then the koala joey should be too big for its mom’s pouch shouldn’t it? Yep, the koala joey is now too big to fit inside its mother’s pouch so the female koala’s teat will then poke through their pouch so that the koala joey can still drink her milk.

I hope you learned some facts about koalas. I know I certainly did. If you’re interested in learning more about koalas click this link!