Koala • Phascolarctos cinereus
One of Australia’s well known animals is the koala. Karbor, Koolah,
Kur-bo-roo are some the many names given to the koala by Aborigines.
Early European settlers adopted the ‘koala’ from the word used
by the Aboriginal tribe living near Sydney. It is believed that the
word meant ‘no drink’ as they had never seen koalas drinking water.
In south-eastern Australia, the Koori (local Aboriginal people)
hunted and ate koalas, but never skinned them or used their fur in
any way. Koories believed that koalas could control the water supply
and that to skin a koala would make all the rivers and creeks dry
Although they are often referred to as ‘koala bears’, they are actually
The koala’s closest relative is the wombat, as they both have
pouches which open towards the rear. This method of carrying the
young is fine for the wombat,
but koalas need strong muscles ringing the pouch to prevent their young
from falling out.
Koalas are nomadic arboreal, spending most of their time in trees.
They have large claws and strong
muscles, with two thumbs and three fingers on each
front paw, enabling them to maintain their grip in the branches of
trees. In addition they have a clawless big toe on their hind legs,
that allows them to grip with their hind feet. Two of their hind
toes are joined together forming a two-toothed comb, that is used for
grooming fur and removing ticks.
The fur of the koala differs depending what parts of Australia
they come from.
In the southern parts of Australia it is longer and shaggier than
the north, obviously due to the colder climate in the south.
HABITAT AND FEEDING
Koalas vary in size and weight, with those found in Victoria
weighing on average up to 10 kg. The smallest koalas are found in
North Queensland, weighing only 5.5 kg. With a life span of between
10 and up to 20 years, koalas are found occurring naturally between
the south-eastern parts of South Australia, all the way up to North
Queensland. However due to the lost of the natural habitats and in
particular the type of leaves they eat, they can only be found in areas
where there is sufficient food. There is also a thriving colony of
koalas found in
A koala eats about half a kilogram of leaves every day and will only
eat from a few varieties of
Sydney, they eat red gums and mahoganies, whilst
in northern areas of the State, they eat tallowwood and
forest red gum, and in the south, manna gum. Koalas from the west prefer river red gum and ribbon gum.
a variety of other trees for shelter during the day and have been
seen in trees including paperbark, acacia, she-oak, and brush box.
The koalas on
Phillip Island eat Manna Gum, Swamp Gum and Blue Gum.
During the night digestion occurs in the koala’s stomach. Acids and
enzymes break down the sugars and proteins. Poisons within the leaf
are freed and sent to the liver to be detoxified and passed out with
bile and urine. The digestion continues on within the small
intestines, where the fats and nutrients are absorbed into the
bloodstream. At the end of the small intestine a sieve-like
structure allows smaller particles and fluids through to the caecum,
a long thin tube, like an appendix, that branches out from the
intestines. This tube grows to a length of two metres.
The caecum is where the micro-organisms (bacteria) process the
fibrous parts of the leaves. The end product provides the koalas
with about 10% of its energy needs. The food may stay in the caecum
for 100 hours or more. What remains, with any larger particles,
passes directly through to the colon. It is here that all the
remaining water is absorbed and the remains passed out in the form
of dry, pellet-shaped faeces.
Female koalas can breed from about two years of age. Mating occurs
during November to February in the south, September to January further
north. Gestation takes about 35 days, with the appearance of a
single tiny young, blind and hairless. The newborn crawls from the cloaca to
the pouch and
attaches itself to one of two nipples to complete its development.
At one month it is about one centimetre long.
The cub temporarily leaves the pouch at about five and a half months,
and then permanently at
about eight months. It clings to its mother’s back or
stomach, sticking it’s head into the pouch to feed. During weaning
period the cub eats partially-digested eucalyptus that merges from
the mother’s cloaca, receiving the bacteria that is needed for
digestion as well as food.
When the young koala is about one years old, the mother is able
to mate again.
Koalas communicate with each other by making a noise like a
snore and then a belch, known as a ‘bellow’. The koala mating sounds
range from the pig-like grunts and growls of the males, to the high
pitched trembling sounds of the females.
Young koalas are hunted by large birds of prey. They are
occasionally taken by eagles, goannas and owls. Dingoes will also
kill koalas, however, humans are their worst enemies, with many
killed on the road.
In many areas the koala is threatened with the loss of its habitat,
that provide shelter, protection and food. Declared a vulnerable
species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act, many
voluntary conservation organisations, along with the local Parks and
Wildlife services have strategies in place to reverse the situation,
such as planting of food trees such as those in Port Macquarie and
Koala from Phillip Island.
Koala with young from Tasmania.
Click me for a full size image.
- A koala needs to chew its
food well in order to gain energy from the leaves. This
chewing, however, gradually wears the teeth down. As a
consequence an old koala with worn teeth cannot chew a leaf
into small enough pieces to be effectively digested. This can
lead to disease and eventual death.
What’s in a Eucalypt leaf?
- Fat 8%
- Starches and sugars 5%
- Minerals 2%
- Fibre 18%
- Protein 4%
- Water 50%
- Tannins 13%
- Koala baby facts
- The koala’s young is called a cub.
- The koala’s young are born alive.
- Koalas drink milk from the mother.
- A Days Work
- 1 to 3 hours are spent grooming, moving from tree
to tree and during the breeding season searching for a mate.
- 1-3 hours a day are spent feeding. This occurs in
numerous bouts that are spread across a 24 hour period,
especially around sunset. Feeding can last from 5 minutes to 2
- 20 hours of the koala’s day (approximately), is
spent asleep and resting.
- Are all koalas the same size?
The Southern Koala found throughout Victoria, southern New South Wales and South
Australia are significantly larger than the Northern Koala found in Queensland,
with the koalas on Kangaroo Island being larger than the mainland koalas.
Eighteen koalas from Victoria were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1920s,
being released into Flinders Chase National Park at the western part of the
island. The release was to safeguard the species from extinction on the mainland
where disease, fire, hunting and habitat clearing threatened their survival.
Now well established in several areas on the island, and an important tourist
- Over 2 million koalas were killed between 1908 and 1927.
|If there are any factual errors, please
||Koala, Koala Bear
Koala - Where can I see them
There are a number of national parks and forest zones on the eastern side of
Australia, from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania where you can
sometimes catch a glimpse of the koalas in their natural habitat. Places like
Phillip Island and Kangaroo Island, may provide a better chance of seeing
koalas. Other places to get a close encounter include many of the zoos, wildlife
parks and sanctuaries, and places that mainly deal with koalas. Following are
some of those zoos and wildlife parks where you can see koalas:
Lone Pine Koala
Jesmond Rd, FIG TREE POCKET QLD 4069 •
Ph: +61 7 3378 1366 •
Fax: +61 7 3878 1770 •
• Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia, is the
world's first and largest koala sanctuary, with over 130 koalas. Cuddle a koala
anytime, handfeed kangaroos and encounter a large variety of Aussie wildlife,
all in beautiful, natural settings.
Koala Park Sanctuary
• 84 Castle Hill Road, WEST PENNANT
HILLS NSW 2125
• Ph: 02 9484 3141 • Fax: 02 9484 8009 •
The Sanctuary is nestled within the lush tall timbers of the affluent
residential Hills district of Northern Sydney, set amongst 10 acres of natural
eucalyptus trees favoured by the koala. Absorb the Australian bush sounds and
aromas inside the forest canopy and open-range wildlife zones to explore,
interact and discover your own wildlife encounter in a sustainable habitat for
Australian wildlife and culture. The Sanctuary supports a large number of koala
families and a number of other Australian wildlife including kangaroos,
wallabies, wombats, dingoes, possums, penguins, flying foxes, emus, echidnas,
cassowaries, wedge tail eagles, cockatoos etc.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
• 217-229 Kildare Rd, DOONSIDE
NSW 2767 • Ph: 02 9622 1644 Fax: 02 9671 4140
A natural bushland park, home to one of Australia’s largest collection of native animals,
including 30 endangered species. There are face-to-face
encounters with kangaroos, wallabies, and emus. Facilities include cafe,
souvenir shop, shady picnic areas with BBQs.
‘Feed, Walk and Talk’ Tour
• Koala Hospital & Study Center ‘Roto House’
• Koala Preservation Society of NSW Inc
• Macquarie Nature Reserve, Lord St, PORT MACQUARIE NSW 2444
• Ph: 02 6584 1522
Tours are conducted every
afternoon at 3 pm with a volunteer conducting the walk around the outside yards
informing visitors of the history, the individual koalas, why they are there and
what is being done for them.
With between 200 and 250 koalas are admitted through the hospital annually,
relying on volunteers and monies raised to keep the hospital open. Your donation
with the ‘Adopt a Koala’ will help support the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie.
• Phillip Island Nature Parks
• Harbison Rd, PHILLIP ISLAND
• Ph: +61 3 5951 2800
• Fax: +61 3 5956 8394 •
Stroll through this eucalypt woodland
and come ‘face-to-face’ with koalas in their natural habitat. The Koala
Conservation Centre’s unique tree top boardwalks and close viewing areas allow
visitors to see how truly amazing koalas are. The new koala boardwalk provides
exceptional koala viewing and features amazing views of a beautiful natural
Promoting koala conservation, this ecotourism attraction has been essential for
saving Phillip Island’s koala population and natural bush environment. The new
close viewing area plays host to a special koala breeding program over the next
year, ensuring it remains a key player in the conservation of these important
animals. Visitors have the opportunity to experience a ranger-led ‘Koala
Eco-Explorer Tour’ which provides them with the chance to discover behind the
scenes information about one of Australia’s favourite icons.
Another spectacular area is the woodland walk. Wandering through natural bush,
amongst hundreds of different species of Australian wildlife, (including
wallabies, possums, echidnas and snakes) visitors can try to spot the koalas
The Koala Conservation Centre also features a visitor interpretation centre with
gift shop and educational displays, which visitors will find extremely
fascinating and informative. The Koala Conservation Centre is part of the
Phillip Island Nature Parks and is a great addition to any trip to Phillip
Island and the Penguin Parade.
Kyabram Fauna Park
Lake Rd, KYABRAM VIC •
Ph: 03 5852 2883 •
Fax: 03 5853 2336
Open 7 days — 9:30 am - 5:30 pm
This award winning attraction allows visitors to share the relaxed natural
surroundings with more than 100 species of Australia's unique wildlife that
include koalas, parrots, Tasmanian Devils, owls, water birds, reptiles, dingoes,
kangaroos and much, much more.
Located on 55 ha of open parkland and lakes, this fauna park is run by the
Community of Kyabram as a non-profit project. All monies received are used for
the development and maintenance of exhibits, grounds and conservation projects,
for which the Park is renowned.
Displaying Australian Native Wildlife, the park aims to provide the fauna with a
natural environment, which allows the visitors to experience the true beauty and
gentleness of our wildlife heritage. The park is home to some 500 Australian
native animals, birds and reptiles.
To check out some of our images,
• Rockhill Rd, NORTH NOWRA NSW 2541 • Ph: 02 4421 3949
largest native animal park on the NSW South Coast. Set on 16 acres of native
bushland on the banks of the Shoalhaven River, there are over 100 species of
animals birds and reptiles.
Symbio Wildlife Gardens
7-11 Lawrence Hargrave Drv, STANWELL
TOPS NSW 2058
• Ph: +61 2 4294 1244 • Fax: +61 2 4294 1734 •
Only 45 minutes south of
Sydney, this wildlife zoo is designed
to give “hands-on experience”. Set in 16 acres of natural bushland,
there are a huge variety of animals from native, farmyard and
exotics that the visitor can experience that include koalas, wallaroos, red
kangaroos, swamp wallabies, emus, echidnas, wombats and dingos.
For those into reptiles, there are non-venomous snakes, as well as a
variety of lizards, turtles, and the awesome lace Monitors. There
are daily demonstrations, talks, coffee shop, kiosk, picnic areas,
BBQ, and swimming pools.
Taronga Park Zoo
• PO Box 20, Bradleys Head Rd, MOSMAN NSW 2088 • Ph:
+61 2 9969 2777 (General Enquiries) •
Ph: +61 2 9978 4782 (Tourism) • Fax: +61 2 9969 7515 •
Located on the shores of Sydney Harbour and only 12 minutes by ferry
from Circular Quay.
Parks & Wildlife Service
• Check out their fact sheets, includes
Australian Koala Foundation
• Level 1, 40 Charlotte St, BRISBANE QLD 4000
• Ph: +61 7 3229 7233
• Fax: +61 7 3221 0337
• The principal non-governmental
organisation dedicated to saving the koala and its habitat.
Includes facts and latest news about koalas.