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Koala Facts - The Koala Bear
BBC coverage of the koala bear
Australia is a continent blessed with much wildlife, varying from deadly snakes and spiders to kangaroos, wombats and koala bears. Recognised by its cute little furry body, its usually seen clinging to a Eucalypt tree.
Sadly it is estimated there are only around 40,000 -80,000 living in the wild. The population continues to decline especially in the state of Queensland. Although Koala’s continue to thrive in the southern states of South Australia and Victoria they are believed to be more vulnerable to climate change.
Although the Koala can be killed by Dingo’s (wild dogs) and other animals its biggest predator is ‘man’. The koala is a protected species, unfortunately its habitat is not and whilst the destruction of this continues so the koala numbers will continue to decline.
Some interesting koala facts:
Koalas are not actually bears. Their closest relative is the wombat, also a marsupial. It is believed the early European settlers gave thought it to be a bear.
They feed on Eucalypt leaves and whilst there are many thousands of varieties, the koala can only eat certain types. Eucalypt leaves grow in tall Eucalypt trees also known as gum trees as well as low lying Eucalypt plants.
Koala’s can eat 500g (18 ounces) of Eucalypt leaves a day.
They require connected forests in order to sustain their eating and living habits and will travel long distances if possible to meet these needs.
The average koala can be as small as 5kgs (around 12lbs) up to at least 12kgs (around 26 lbs.).
The smaller koala bears live in the more tropical northern states of Australia.
The larger koala’s living in Victoria and Adelaide has thicker fur which helps them keep warm in the cold winters.
The koala’s live along the Southern and Eastern coast of Australia – from Adelaide in the south up to Cape York Peninsula in the north. There are no koalas in Tasmania, Western Australia or the Northern Territory.
Sleep is a favourite past-time of the koala and they can sleep up to 18 hours a day. The long sleep periods are due to the low slow metabolism of the koala and low protein diet. They need to conserve as much energy as possible.
Koalas are nocturnal creatures and only wake for a few hours during the night and up to 2/3rds of this time is spent eating.
Communications and mating.
In order to communicate, Koalas snore or bellow.
Koala’s can live for 15 years or more but often die before thifor due to illness and/or interference of their natural habitat.
Female Koala’s can have one cub a year up until around the age of 12 years
Mating occurs between September and March (Australian spring/summer).
Gestations is around 35 days
A baby cub weighs approximately 1g or 0.035ounces
The cub is blind when born and without fur. It crawls into its mother’s rear facing pouch where it stays for the first 6 months feeding off her teats.
The cub will then climb on its mothers back as a means of transport and protection.
The cub is fully weaned at 12 months. It will stay around its mother for a few years unless its mother has another Cub.
Protection of the koala
Koalas are very susceptible to chlamydia (not the human disease) which can cause blindness, respiratory infections and infertility. Many koalas are infected with koala retro virus which affects the immune system leaving them defenceless against koala chlamydia.
In April 2012 the Australian Federal government announced a protected listing of koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and ACT as vulnerable.
The Australian koala foundation is working with councils whom are reportedly working towards ensuring there are protected wildlife areas suitable for koalas in order to help prevent their further decline, mainly due to urbanisation.
PLEASE NOTE: if you click on the above link you can find more information about adopting a koala and helping to protect the koala bear.