This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about koalas - the famous Australian "bear" thats not really a bear at all.
This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about koalas—the famous Australian “bear” that’s not really a bear at all.
Habitat: Eastern and coastal Australia
- Koalas may look like bears, but they’re not bears—they’re marsupials. And as marsupials, the mother carries her baby in a pouch until it’s big and strong enough to cling on to its mother’s back or belly, which takes about six months.
- Koalas nap during the day (for up to 20 hours at a time) and feast on eucalyptus leaves at night (up to 1 kg, or 2.5 pounds, every day). They depend on eucalyptus tree for their survival, not only for food but also for shelter, as they rarely stray from these trees.
- Because koala feast on so many eucalyptus leaves, they actually smell like eucalyptus. This is indeed the same eucalyptus that we’re familiar with as an essential oil, but be cautious: just because koalas eat eucalyptus and we can use it safely as an essential oil doesn’t mean we can eat eucalyptus. Koalas’ bodies are designed to consume these leaves while remaining unharmed by their poison, but our bodies are not.
- Koalas have small fuzzy bodies, big eyes, dark noses, sharp claws, and opposable thumbs perfect for climbing trees. They weigh about 9 kg (20 pounds).
Why they’re threatened
In the 1920s and 1930s, koalas were hunted extensively for their fur, causing a rapid population decline. Their population has since increased, but today their threat comes in the form of habitat loss, as koalas require about 100 trees each.
Recently, news sources have reported that Australia’s environmental minister Tony Burke has called for koalas to be labelled as a threatened species in parts of the country. The matter is a complicated one, as koalas are thriving in some parts of the country, but greatly suffering due to urban expansion (including cars and dogs) and disease.
Check out the World Wildlife Fund for more information, as well as how to help.