YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Welcome to another issue of Wowzerful!
Today we’re taking a trip “down under” to learn all about one of Australia’s most famous critters, the koala.
These adorable marsupials (koalas are not bears!) love to feed on eucalyptus leaves and can sleep anywhere from 18 to 22 hours per day!
Let’s see what else there is to discover when it comes to these unique animals.
Native to the eastern and southern coastal areas of Australia, koalas are tree-dwelling, nocturnal, herbivorous marsupials.
Their diet mainly consists of eucalyptus leaves which contain a lot of fiber, but are quite low in nutritional value, which is why they tend to nap so much during the day.
Because they receive so much hydration from the leaves they consume, they usually don’t drink much water. In fact, Koala is thought to mean “no drink” in the Aboriginal language.
Koalas are rather picky eaters. Of the over 100 species of eucalyptus trees in Australia, they will dine on only 30 or so, and they’ll only eat leaves which are at a particular stage of growth.
A single koala will eat up to one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of leaves per day and will even store snacks of leaves in their cheeks!
These furry creatures are characterized by their sturdy, tailless bodies, large round head with fluffy ears and beady eyes, and an oversized, oblong nose.
These unique features come together in harmonious fashion, resulting in an overload of cuteness for a lot of their enthusiastic admirers.
If you ever happen to see one in person, however, try not to get too close. Because of their diet, they tend to smell strongly of eucalyptus and musk, which is thought to discourage fleas and other animals from taking up residence in their fur.
As marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped offspring, called joeys, that crawl into their mother’s pouches and settle in for the first six to seven months of their lives. These joeys are just 2 cm (0.78 in) long when they are first born!
Koalas are equipped with strong legs and arms, and have long, sharp claws which help them move amongst the trees in which they dwell.
Two opposable thumbs on their forepaws assist them in maintaining a good grip on their surroundings.
They are a little out of their element on the ground, but are surprisingly exceptional swimmers. Their swimming expertise comes in handy when they need to cross rivers in order to escape flooding.
The Koala is classified as vulnerable by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature which has named the species one of ten animals most vulnerable to climate change.
Habitat loss due to the clearing of Australian forests for urban, industrial and rural development, as well as the increasing threat of devastating brush fires, such as the one experienced during the 2019-2020 season, have destroyed much of the forests koalas inhabit.
Wildlife hospitals, rescue organizations, zoos, and volunteers have organized efforts to care for injured koalas with the intention of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild.
There are also efforts by conservation groups to buy large reserves of land to set aside for koalas, and state governments are also creating new koala reserves.
With these and other conservation efforts, we’re hoping koalas will be able to bounce back so we can continue to enjoy their adorable faces for years to come.
Length:60 – 85 cm (24 – 33 in)
Weight:4 – 15 kg (9 – 33 lb)
Location:Coastal areas of Southeastern and Eastern Australia
Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous, but that doesn’t stop koalas from enjoying them! Koalas have a caecum, a long digestive organ which allows them to break the leaves down unharmed.
Despite being incorrectly called koala bears on occasion, koalas are not even related to bears. Instead, they are related to wombats and kangaroos.
Koala fingerprints are virtually indistinguishable from human ones. Even with careful analysis under a microscope, it can be difficult to distinguish the winding, looping ridges on koalas’ fingers from our own.
Koala joeys feed on their mother’s “pap”, which is a kind of soup that forms in a mother koala’s caecum. It is loaded with microorganisms to prepare their digestive tracts for a lifetime of eating toxic leaves.
Get comfortable! The fur on the Koala’s rump is densely packed, acting like a cushion. Cartilage covers the end of their curved spine and provides additional padding, which allows them to transform their tree dwellings into a place of ultimate relaxation.
Koalas have a curved backbone and 11 pairs of ribs instead of 13 like most mammals. This creates a curved skeletal structure that fits well into the nooks, crannies, and forks of trees.
Koalas communicate with each other by making snore-like sounds which are quickly followed by a belch. How rude!
Koalas have been living on our planet for at least 20 million years, and there are fossils to prove it!
Get ready to gush over these cute koalas, and learn some interesting facts along the way!