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Often called a bear, the koala is, in fact, a marsupial with a backward-facing pouch. In the wild, this animal is rarely seen because it lives high in the tops of trees. Even though it is arboreal, the koala will occasionally venture to the ground where it can be easy prey for dogs.
The fur on its back is so thick that the koala is virtually waterproof, and it has special thumbs that help it feed. The male is about twice the size of the female.
Koalas sleep about 20 hours a day and spend the rest of their time eating. Picky eaters, koalas eat only the leaves of a few species of eucalyptus, from which they obtain most of their water. They also have been seen drinking dew off of the ground.
Koalas move slowly to conserve energy. However, they can move quickly and leap from one tree to another. A tame koala will cling to whomever is holding it, but in the wild, they will bite, kick, and claw with vigor until free.
The male matures at five years. He has a special gland on his chest that leaves a scent on the tree he occupies. This scent, along with his occasional bellow, will hopefully attract a mate. A female can breed at two years of age.
Like all marsupials, the baby koala is born bean-sized and finds its way into its mother’s pouch. Once it attaches to its mother’s nipple, it does not venture out until fully developed, about 13 weeks.
The mother carries the baby in her pouch for up to six months and then allows the youngster to cling to her back or stomach for another two to three months. When the young koala is old enough for something other than milk, it will eat partially digested leaves (called pap) found in its mother’s droppings.
Koalas were almost hunted to extinction because of the demand for their fur, but they are now protected. Many of them are displayed in zoos, and these captive animals are the most photographed creatures in Australia.
Marsupialia • Phascolarctidae • Phascolarctos Cinereus
Weight: 33 pounds (15 kg)
Length: 2-3 feet (60–90 cm)
Life Span: 10–15 years
Special Design Feature: The koala’s thumbs are specially designed to help them feed and grasp.
Did You Know? The koalas get most of their water from eating eucalyptus leaves.