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Koala Bears Facts
Do you know about koala bears? Actually koalas are not really bears at all, although their Latin scientific name, Phascolarctos cinereus, means "ash colored pouched bear". So even though they aren't really bears, I'll excuse you if you say, "I'm just translating the Latin." It does however look somewhat like a bear, but it is really quite different. It is actually a marsupial - the mother carries her young in a pouch on her belly.
Because of the number of people who say "koala bears", I will use the term occasionally on this page. But every time I do, remember I'm just translating the Latin ;-).
On this page, you will find some great koala pictures and videos and also some links to coloring pictures. You will find out some amazing koala facts for kids such as information about their babies, what they eat, what sound they make, where they live and other interesting facts. Don't forget to try the koala quiz to see how much you know about them! You may want to wait until you've read all the information here before attempting the quiz.
Koala Bears Table of Contents
Basic koala facts
More koala facts
Koalas on TV
Basic Koala Facts
The "native bear" - an old definition
"KOALA--Aboriginal name for native bear.
NATIVE BEAR--A small marsupial animal with grey fur and full expressive face (see KOALA)."
(From A Dictionary of Australian Words And Terms by Gilbert H. Lawson 1924)
Interesting Facts #1
Koalas are not bears but marsupials - mammals with a pouch (like kangaroos, possums and wombats).
Where do koala bears live? - their habitat
Koalas are found down the east coast of mainland Australia - in the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
They live in dry eucalyptus (gum tree) forests where they can find their preferred leaves. Most of their time is spent eating, sitting or sleeping in eucalyptus trees or other types of trees growing in these forests.
Oh. By the way, we have no true bears in Australia - except in zoos!
What do koalas eat?
their food / diet
The koala is a fussy eater, only eating from several different species of eucalyptus (or gum) trees and very occasionally from some other trees such as wattles or tea trees. They will eat the leaves, shoots, fruits, flowers and even, at times, the bark from young branches. Koala bears (think Latin!) eat about 450-680g (1 to 1½ pounds) of leaves a day. That's about 10% of their body weight. They can usually get all the nutrients and moisture they need from the oil in the gum leaves (have you heard of eucalyptus oil?) and the rain and dew which collects on them. Gum leaves are low in nutrition and contain certain chemicals which are toxic to most other animals. But koalas have special bacteria in their guts which enable them to digest these leaves.
Sometimes they will eat soil which can provide it with essential minerals such as calcium. Mmmm, mud pies! Only occasionally will they drink from a waterhole or other water source. See below for a video of a koala drinking from a water bottle just after a bushfire.
Interesting facts #2
Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves and sometimes dirt.
How much can a koala bear?
This koala was deparately in need of a drink after surviving a bushfire in Victoria, Australia in the Summer of 2009.
Plush koala bears to love and cuddle
This koala looks so realistic and ever so cuddly.
A mother with her joey
Interesting facts #3
Koalas have two thumbs on each of their front paws.
What do they do all day?
A koala is arboreal (which means it spends most of its life in trees), usually perched in the fork of a eucalyptus (gum) tree. It doesn't have a tail like a monkey to help it in balancing in trees but it does have long arms and strong claws with two "thumbs" (opposing digits) on each front paw to enable it to get a secure grip. They may jump from one branch to another or from one tree to another but usually they descend bottom first down a tree to cross to another tree on the ground.
You might like to watch this video showing a koala walking, running and jumping and to see how it descends a tree bottom first.
Interesting facts #4
Koalas spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping.
Zzzzzzz. Please don't disturb me....
Because eucalyptus leaves are not extremely nutritious nor full of energy, koala bears spend about 16 to 20 hours per day resting unmoving in the fork of a tree. The majority of that time is spent sleeping.
Interesting facts #5
When is cold, wet or windy, a koala will sleep curled up in a ball. When it is hot or humid they will sleep all sprawled out with arms and legs hanging.
Check out the koala pictures above and below. Can you tell what the weather's like by looking at them? (Answers hidden below)
All About Baby Koalas
Baby koalas certainly look cute. See pictures and videos and find out more about these sweet little babies below. You will find out what they are called (is it a puppy, a kitten, a cub or something else?), what they eat (ewww - do you really want to know?) and what these babies do with their days.
Interesting facts #6
Baby koalas are called joeys.
Like all baby marsupials, baby koalas are called joeys. When the joey is born, it is still far from developed. It is only about 1 inch (2.5cm) long and is blind and hairless. But it has strong enough front legs able to be able to pull itself across its mother's belly about 2 inches (5cm) and enter her pouch. The joey will attach itself to one of the two teats in its mother's pouch. Click here to see a picture of the newborn, hairless joey.
The joey will stay in the pouch, attached to the teat, drinking milk, for the next 3 to 4 months. At this stage it may venture out into the open although, even now, it is now barely covered in fur.
Interesting facts #7
A new-born koala is about the size of a jellybean.
Cute joey video part 1
This joey was abandoned by his mother. He is only 7 months old but, at 200g (7 ounces), he is underweight for his age. He is affectionately called "the doodlebug". It looks like he is just starting to eat gum leaves. He was using a sock as his pouch.
At about 22 weeks the joey will begin to eat its mother's pap, a special type of soft, runny poo (not the usual hard, dry pellets) to introduce the necessary bacteria into its gut so that it will be able to digest eucalyptus leaves. This pap is made up of partially digested eucalyptus leaves. The joey will continue eating this pap until it is about 30 weeks old. After this time it will begin eating leaves.
The joey will venture outside the pouch for the first time at about 27 weeks and by 30 weeks it will spend the majority of the day outside the pouch riding on its mother's back or sometimes clinging to her belly. At this stage it weighs about 0.6 pounds (½ kg). By 36 weeks, the joey weighs about 2.2 pounds (1 kg) and is too big to fit in its mother's pouch any more. It will continue to ride on its mother's back until it weighs almost 4½ pounds (2 kg) - about 1 year old. The joey can be a quarter of the mother's weight.
In good conditions, once she reaches maturity (at 3 or 4 years), a female koala usually has one baby a year. Twin baby koalas are not very common. It is thought that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of twins being born. If twins are born, it is likely that only one will survive to maturity since, as they grow, there is not really enough room in the pouch for two babies. In captivity, a female will happily adopt another older joey temporarily so that she carries one on her back and one on her belly at the same time. Talk about overload!
Interesting facts #8
Joeys eat their mother's pap (poo) to give them the bacteria to help them digest eucalyptus leaves later.
Cute joey video part 2 - an abandoned joey
This is the joey, "the doodlebug", 5 months later. He grown to nearly 800g (28 ounces) but is still underweight.
More Koala Facts
More Koala Facts
Do you know what sound a koala makes? Have you ever seen one angry? Watch some videos and find out about the his territory and more in this section.
What sound does a koala make?
When a koala is stressed, it may make a sound like a wailing baby. Throughout the year, but especially during the mating season, September through to February (that's Australia's Spring-Summer), the male will make loud bellows and pig-like grunts. This may be made in anger or to attract the females.
Click the play button to listen to this koala grunting
Koalas tend to live alone except for a mother with her baby. Each one has a home range which is an area of between 3 and 500 acres (1 and 200 hectares) depending on the fertility of the area, the number of suitable eucalypts available and the hierarchy dominance. We tend to think of them as peaceful and cuddly. But this is not always the case. If a male witnesses an intruding male in his home range, he will attempt to scare him off, first by bellowing at him. If this fails to deter the trespasser, he will rush at him, trying to grab him and a fight may ensue.
I have heard a story of a male koala attacking a man who was using a chainsaw. The koala probably heard the sound of the machine and thought this was the sound of another male in his territory. Watch this video of one chasing a motorbike. Do you think it could possibly be because the bike sounded like another male koala?
Male's Scent Gland
Mature male koalas have a scent gland in the middle of their chests which leaves a strong scent when they rub their chests on trees to mark their territory.
Find out more
Learn about their life cycle - a book for young children.
Hold a koala
(Sorry. I couldn't resist adding this old picture of my two children holding a this cute, little marsupial)
In the states of New South Wales and Victoria, it is illegal for anyone but a qualified keeper to hold a koala. But you can touch them and even cuddle them in some wildlife parks if they are sitting on something else. This photo was taken in Queensland where ordinary people are allowed to hold them.
Have you ever held a koala?
Still more about koalas
Lots of information and lovely koala pictures in this book.
Where does the name come from?
Some resources say that the word "koala" comes from an Australian aboriginal word meaning "no drink". But perhaps the word was a combination of some of the Aboriginal names for the koala such as cullawine, carbora or kola.
In early written accounts of the European settlers in Australia, koalas were referred to by these Aboriginal names or as bears, monkeys or sloths. Most often, it seems, they were referred to as native bears. I guess people just took what they knew and applied it to what they saw in this new land. And because they spend most of their time high up in trees, it would have been difficult to get a good look at them and they could have been mistaken for something else.
Even in children's books, the koala was called a native bear so it is easy to see where the name came from.
Then Dot opened her eyes very wide and looked round, and saw a funny Native Bear on the tree trunk behind her. . . .
"You dear little Native Bear!" she exclaimed, at once stroking its head.
"Am I a Native Bear?" asked the animal in a meek voice. "I never heard that before. I thought I was a Koala. I've always been told so, but of course one never knows oneself. What are you? Do you know?"
(from Dot and the Kangaroo by Ethel C. Pedley 1920)
The whole bushland was twittering with the news, for a baby bear was a great event. Mrs Koala had a baby every two years, and as Mrs Rabbit had very, very many during that time, you can just imagine how surprised everyone was.
(from Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall 1939)
The old picture above is from Mammals of Australia, Vol. I Plate 14 by John Gould, 1863
Koala Activities and Crafts
Koala Colouring Page
My own koala colouring page. Click to enlarge.
Koala Bear Crafts
Click to enlarge this koala pattern to use as a perler bead pattern or cross stitch pattern.
Try your hand at some crafts - origami, a cut and paste activity, models, mask, birthday party invitations to print, and a merry-go-round.
Make a cute origami koala face. Either print out their paper for a pre-printed face or use your own paper and draw on your own face. Make a couple in different sizes. Then you can make a greeting card using your origami faces - one for a mother and one for a baby.
Scroll down to the make a card section for a cute koala with her joey origami card
A printable project to cut out and paste together for young children
Toilet paper roll craft
Make a mask
Click on printables then choose Make & Do to get 3 Koala Brothers cards and a birthday invitation to print.
Scroll down for the printable PDF to make a cute merry-go-round
Print and put together this rather complicated paper model koala
Links checked May 2013
Make Some Cute Koala Greeting Cards - Click on the text links for more info or to buy these printable cards
This cute card is shaped like a koala climbing a tree branch. The picture is the same on the front and the back. You can purchase the printable template to make as many of these cards as you like, or you can even buy the completed card. This one is not difficult to make - just print out on your printer, then cut out. Easy!
This card is a little more complicated to make, but still pretty easy. You print out the template, then cut out all the sections. Layer the sections on the base card using thick double sided tape to make the picture look three dimensional. Add your own greeting to the purple tag.
Koalas on TV
Koala bears are such sweet-looking creatures, it is not surprising that they have become the heroes of their own TV shows.
Adventures of the Little Koala
Adventures of the Little Koala is an anime TV series originally shown in Japan in 1984. It was later dubbed in other languages and shown in other countries around the world. The characters include koalas (including Roobear, our main character), kangaroos, rabbits (not a native to Australia, but they certainly live here!), a dingo (a carnivorous creature!), a sugar glider, a platypus, a couple of penguins (which don't live in the bush, but on the coast) and a kiwi bird (doesn't actually live in Australia at all - a New Zealand native).
Interesting facts #9
Japan's love affair with the koala began in 1984 when a zoo in Tokyo received its first koalas.
Blinky Bill - A naughty little koala boy
Blinky Bill was a character from a series of children's books by Dorothy Wall, the first of which, Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian, was published in 1933. Blinky Bill was a koala with human characteristics. In 1993, a TV series was produced called The Adventures of Blinky Bill.
Blinky Bill DVD from Amazon
Over 9 hours of fun Blinky Bill cartoons
Season 1 - 26 episodes.
The Koala Brothers
The Koala Brothers is a children's animated TV show set in the Australian outback. The show premiered in 2003 and ended in 2007. The two brothers, Frank and Buster, have made it their mission to help others.
Sorry - not currently available.
Sharp, Ann The Koala Book Pelican Publishing Company
Burton, Barbara The Koala Lansdowne Press
Ride, W.D.L. A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia Oxford University Press
Morris, Edward Morris Austral English - A Dictionary of Australasia Words, Phrases and Usages published in 1898
Would you like to see anything added here? Did you learn something new?