05 07 2017


Koala – the marsupial which does not drink water

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27 June 2017

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Edited: 27 June 2017

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Category: Animals / Australia / Mammals / Marsupials

Koala – the marsupial which does not drink water

The koala – the marsupial which does not drink water

First European settlers coming to Australia gave local animals names derived from European species, which they resembled most. Therefore, we had the following names:

  • the koala bear
  • the Tasmanian wolf
  • the marsupial mole
  • the marsupial mouse

All mentioned animals are marsupials whose appearance and behavior make them look similar to unrelated Placentalia mammals but they derived their names from them.

The name ‘kangaroo’ has the other background, as it did not resemble any known European animals.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

The koala living in eastern part of Australia is the marsupial, which is very gentle and looks like a teddy bear. As one of the few animals in the world, it feeds on only one type of food – these are leaves of selected species of eucalyptus.

The koala is a great but also a slow climber. It climbs tree branches in an excellent way and holds the tree trunk firmly with its strong legs. The koala’s toes are strong and prehensile and its strong claws let it grapple even the smooth bark.

These pleasant marsupials live only in the upper branches of the eucalyptus trees. It rarely goes down on the ground and the only reason is to move from one tree to another if they cannot jump onto it. Koalas eat many leaves – on average, from 0.5 to 1 kg daily – therefore, they must sometimes travel “long distances” to other trees in the search of food. As koalas’ legs are short, they move on the ground ineptly and with difficulty; although they have more grace than sloths.

What does the name ‘koala’ mean?

The name “koala” comes from the Aboriginal language Dharuk, from the word gula and means “the one who does not drink”. Koala most of the mineral substances and the fluid he needs gets from the eucalyptus leaves. It drinks water very rarely; only when there is less water in leaves because of the drought.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Why does the koala get down on the ground?

Probably you know that the sloth, which the koala is associated with because of the temper, gets down on the ground because of one reason- so as to defecate and climb onto another tree. The only reason why the koala gets down on the ground is the possibility to climb another tree…:)

Is koala the bear?

The koala was mistaken for the bear at the beginning. This charming animal was defined as ‘the koala bear’ resembling the teddy bear but its lifestyle is similar rather to the sloth or monkeys consuming leaves. The koala is not the bear, it is the marsupial from the Phascolarctidae family.

Does the koala live in the group?

The koala usually lives solely but there are sometimes small groups consisting of the male and a few females.

When is the koala active?

The koala is the animal which is nocturnal. During the day, marsupials sleep on tree branches fork. When the night comes, they climb the highest branches to consume ripe shoots and leaves of some types of the eucalyptus, which is its only food.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

The young koalas

Young koalas are born blind and without fur. Its weight is low – below 1g and its length is around 20 mm. The koala grows up in its mother’s pouch for the period of around 6 months. During first 5 months, it eats only the mother’s milk. Young koalas stay with their mothers for about 2 years – most often they are attached to her back – until the next mating season.

Is the koala under protection?

Koalas have been totally protected since 1927. Because of cutting down eucalyptus forests and hunting for koala’s precious fur, the species is endangered. The great danger for koalas is also the bush fires, which happens in Australia almost every year.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Detailed information / size

The koala – curios

  • The koala is actually a very thin animal. The woolly hair makes its body look stubby.
  • This slow clumsy-looking animal can move from one tree to another doing long jumps.
  • Koalas eat only ripe eucalyptus leaves. Young shoots often contain killing amounts of the hydrocyanic; therefore, first koalas kept in zoos and fed with young eucalyptus often died.
  • This animal has sacs on its cheeks used as the pantry.
  • Koalas swim very well.
  • These animals have the digestive system letting them eat only leaves of the chosen types of the eucalyptus.
  • The koala sleeps 16 to 18 hours per day.

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

  • Length: 60 – 85 cm (23.6 – 33.5 in)
  • Weight: 8 – 15 kg (17.6 – 33.1 lb)
  • The pregnancy lasts only: 25 – 35 days (marsupials)
  • The number of young: 1
  • The mating season: every two years
  • Lifetime: 15-20 years


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