#1 Koala “bears”? No, they are not bears.
Even though they are somewhat similar to bears appearance wise with their bodies covered in hair, they belong to the marsupial category of mammals; animals who have specialised pouches in which their offspring develop are not placental mammals.
#2 Baby Koalas are super cute.
After spending weeks in the mother’s pouch during development, baby Koalas ride on their mother’s back until they are ready to be independent. They only return to the pouch for food and sleep during this time.
They are also called “Joeys”, just like other animal babies who are native to Australia.
#3 Koalas are a symbol of Australian wildlife, but they don’t live all over Australia.
Koala populations are distributed across Eastern and South-eastern Australia, in Eucalypt woodlands along the coastlines from Queensland to South Australia. Their populations are fragmented within this range and some of them are at serious risk. On the other hand, relocation with human interference of koalas with the intention of repopulation has also caused inbreeding and overpopulation in certain areas.
#4 They’ve got supportive butts.
Since Koalas spend most of their day chilling high up on Eucalyptus trees, they sure need some comfort and support. The end of their curved spine contains strong cartilage that provides padding for them. At the same time, the thickly packed fur on their butts gives the comfort of a cushion, making their perching business effortlessly comfortable.
#5 They are picky with their interesting diet.
Koalas feed exclusively on new leaves and fresh tips of tall Eucalyptus trees, which are rich in nutrients and contain more water than others and can eat around a kilogram a day! Even though there are hundreds of Eucalyptus varieties, they only eat about 50 varieties, making them picky eaters. Since Eucalyptus leaves are very low in nutrients and contain toxins, their reproductive system is specially adapted to detoxify those chemicals. Their special fiber-digesting organ, caecum, performs this task.
#6 Their name means “No Water.”
It’s not strange that the meaning of “Koala” turns out to be no drink/water in the Dharug Aboriginal language. They simply do not bother to drink water unless they are in need during times of droughts and heatwaves. They fulfill their water intake using the moisture they absorb from the Eucalyptus leaf diet.
#7 Koalas can sleep up to 22 hours a day.
Koalas are highly sedentary sleepyheads because their energy intake is very low from their Eucalyptus diet. This is because Eucalyptus mainly contains toxic oils. Their digestive systems need to work hard to break down those toxins and absorb the limited nutrients. They conserve their limited energy by sleeping so that they can go look for food later.
#8 Chlamydia is a serious concern for Koalas.
Koalas are sensitive animals, and they are prone to Chlamydia when they are found in stressful situations. While this is not the same strain that causes Chlamydia in humans, this disease can cause blindness and reproductive and urinary tract infections them. This disease weakens them and makes them vulnerable to death.
#9 Their homes are no longer safe due to deforestation.
When deforestation happens, Koala populations simply have nowhere to go as their habitats either get fragmented or completely lost. Loss of natural habitats also leads to malnutrition and starvation in them. As a result, Koalas are forced to spend more time on the ground risking their lives because of stress-induced diseases, getting hit by motor vehicles or predator attacks.
IUCN lists Koalas under the 10 animals who are the most vulnerable to climate change.
#10 They are on the verge of extinction.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species categorizes Koalas under “Vulnerable” as their population decreases due to habitat loss. In addition to the deforestation and disease which usually affect Koalas, they have been put in a further tragic situation with the devastating bushfires in Australia in recent years. Scientists report that thousands of Koalas were either killed or displaced due to the destructive blazes of the 2019-2020 bushfire season.