Maybe you like salamanders, and that’s perfectly fine. However, you probably weren’t expecting those baby koalas, when firstborn, to look like lizard-like creatures. They are born long before they can survive independently, which is why they have to spend months inside their mothers’ pouch. When first born, baby koalas, known as joeys, are only about two centimeters long and are completely bald. They are also entirely blind deaf, as none of their organs have yet fully developed. However, it does have claws, as well as strong forelimbs, which allow it to get around its mother’s pouch.
You might be shocked to learn that the tiny joey makes its way from the birth canal to the pouch without any help from its mother. The joey climbs up through the fur on the mother’s abdomen to the pouch opening. Once inside the mother’s pouch, it attaches itself to one of the two milk teats, which swells to fill its mouth. For the first few months of life, the joey stays inside the pouch and drinks only the mother’s pouch. Over these few months, they grow, develop eyes, ears, and fur. By about seven months of age, the joey can leave the pouch for longer and longer periods.
That might seem incredibly gross, but “pap” is the proper name given to a particular type of poo that mother koalas feed to joeys in a month or so before they become mature enough to eat eucalyptus leaves. Pap is smooth and runny, and it provides the microorganisms that need to populate the joey’s intestinal tract before it can digest the leaves. Koala joeys are not born with this specific bacterium, so for it to eat and digest the tough and fibrous eucalyptus leaves, it has to be passed on from the mom to the baby.
After spending about six months drinking milk, the joey will start spending short periods out of the pouch and nuzzling its nose around. This movement is what stimulates the production of pap. Before leaving the mother’s pouch and devouring an adult diet, they stay in the pap for a few weeks, perhaps a month. They must establish enough bacteria. Imagine your mother feeding you poop. Whether it was full of probiotics or not, the authorities would probably take you away from her permanently. However, koalas don’t call feeding poop to their kids child abuse. They call it love.
19. Mother Koalas Kick Their Young Out Of their Home Range
After about six months of age, joeys leave the mother’s pouch and ride around on her back, though they return to the bag to drink the mother’s milk. They continue doing so until they are too large to fit inside it. Joeys remain with their mothers for one to three years, usually depending on when they have another joey. Once they leave their mothers, they have to find their own home range. Often, they search for a field that belonged to a koala that is now deceased and left behind an area of eucalyptus trees on which it can forage. They aren’t allowed to stay in the mother’s range.
Some koala joeys leave their mothers at the ripe age of 12 months. They do so to try to find their own home ranges. That’s when life begins to get harder for these young koalas because they now have to find their own territory. This new territory has to be somewhere with the right tree species with tasty gum leaves to eat and somewhere near other koalas. There are also many other factors to consider when choosing a new home range. The koala joeys have to consider a location safe from threats such as habitat destruction, cars, and dogs.
18. Koalas Eat Their Weight In Food Every Two Weeks
Koalas weigh about 14 kilograms each, and every day, they eat ½ to 1 full kilogram of food. That means that every fortnight, they eat their entire weight in food. However, they don’t have chubby little stomachs to show for their voracious eating. They eat almost nothing but eucalyptus leaves, which are low in nutrients and difficult to digest. They eat nothing but salad, which may make them bloated and constipated, but they won’t gain weight off of it. Koalas have to consume large amounts of the leaves because they are so devoid of nutrients that their needs can only be met by engorging themselves.
As nocturnal animals, koalas can consume all of their daily foods in about three to four hours. The eucalyptus leaves are the primary source of a koala’s diet, and its digestive system has uniquely adapted to break down these harsh leaves. Koalas are incredibly picky eaters. However, on rare occasions, they will branch out of their comfort zone and eat from other Australian natives. These eucalyptus-eating Australian icons don’t absorb many nutrients in their diets or spend too much time consuming so they can maintain a healthy and manageable weight. Even though we might find eating the same food everyday bland, the koalas find it satisfying.
They sleep 18 hours a day and eat the equivalent of their own body weight every two weeks. Imagine if you were that lazy and entitled! But koalas can get away with it because they are (seemingly) so cute and cuddly. Koalas are the laziest of creatures. However, unlike cats, which are also quite lazy, they would make terrible pets. You would hardly be able to feed them enough, and their sharp claws would wreak worse havoc on your furniture than a feline. Not to mention the horrible smell from their stink glands if they felt that you were encroaching on their territory.
Koalas are mostly nocturnal animals and are primarily active at night. They might be slightly busy at dawn or dusk. That might be because, in the cooler hours, the koala is less likely to lose the precious moisture and energy than they would if they were active during the hotter daylight hours. Koalas have a thick wooly fur that protects them from both high and low temperatures so they can comfortably survive. The coat on the koala’s bottom is densely packed. It essentially provides them with a cushion for the stiff branches that they sit and sleep on. If you spent between 18 and 20 hours a day, you would want to be comfortable too.
At first glance, a koala appears cute and cuddly. A few years back, a group of thieves broke into a zoo with the plan to steal a koala to sell for money to buy drugs. The koala went berserk and covered them with so many scratches and lacerations that they had to abort the mission. However, the thieves didn’t give up. Instead, they captured a four-foot crocodile and, despite the reptile’s thrashing, hauled it over the security fence. The moral of the story is that kidnapping a crocodile is easier than kidnapping a koala. Those evil little monsters will scratch and bite the daylights out of you.
Most of the time, these tree-hugging animals keep to themselves. However, sometimes as described above, they snap. At the end of the day, koalas are wild animals. Like most wild animals, they prefer to have no contact with humans at all. One study showed that even captive koalas experienced stress when humans approached too close to them. As you get closer to a koala, their behavior will change. They will likely stop resting or feeding and stare at you nervously. Koalas are not the cute, cuddly, and inviting animal, they are often portrayed as. If you ever find yourself close to one, you should proceed with extreme caution.
A few years ago, a dairy farmer named Ebony Churchill in Victoria, Australia, caught a video of a koala that chased her all-terrain vehicle for several minutes before she finally pulled over to find what the little bugger was up to. She was afraid of the koala attacking her, but he wasn’t giving up interest. Rather than being interested in Ebony or anything that she was hauling, the koala was more intrigued with her vehicle. A little confused, the dairy farmer watched the koala as it made its way around the car, inspecting every inch of it up and down.
Ebony was stunned to find out what the koala wanted. As it turns out, the real object of the koala’s affection was the ATV’s tires. Finding precisely what it wanted, the koala used its sharp claws to latch onto the rear tire and refused to let go for several minutes. Although tires and rubber would not be an obvious thing to eat, the koala found it incredibly appealing. Remarkably, Ebony commented on how cute the koala was and that the animals are particularly active this year. That is only one example of how a koala can leave you feeling shocked.
Not only because they might be attracted to the tires of an ATV but because they don’t realize that eucalyptus leaves are still edible when they are no longer on the tree. In terms of brain-to-body ratio, koalas have some of the smallest brains of any animal on the planet. Another way to measure intelligence is to measure the folds in the brain. For example, Einstein had extra folds in his mind that most people don’t have; more folds generally correspond to higher intelligence. However, koalas’ brains are as smooth as walnuts. They can’t help it. They’re just stupid.
According to the experts, koalas lack intellectual abilities. Despite looking extremely cute and cuddly, they are considered neither smart nor intelligent. A lot of basic examples confirm the lack of intelligence within koalas. For instance, they are usually not aware of their surroundings. They hardly pay attention to any unusual event that is happening within their surrounding areas. Their only preference is to sleep as much as possible. If it rains, koalas will not be bothered to move to some shade of branches to avoid it. Instead, they will continue to lay down in the rain. Even when there are brush fires, koalas will not leave their trees unless they get incredibly close.
There are hundreds of varieties of eucalyptus trees in Australia, but koalas will only eat the leaves of about 30. Moreover, the 30 that they are willing to eat are some of the most nutrient-poor varieties they could indulge in. However, they have to be somewhat aware of how poor their diets are, as they are known to fill in the gaps by eating dirt. After all, the soil has the calcium that the eucalyptus leaves lack. So you see, they are toddlers that are raging through the Terrible Twos and would rather eat dirt than a home-cooked meal.
When a koala is seeking the perfect eucalyptus tree, they evaluate the tree’s size, the neighborhood it is found in, and the taste of the leaves that matter the most. They are very fussy eaters and have extreme preferences for different types of gum leaves. Within a particular area, as few as one, and generally no more than two or three eucalypt species will be regularly browsed. These are more commonly referred to as primary browse trees. The variety of other species, including some non-eucalypts, are only scanned occasionally or used for just sitting or sleeping. Since different eucalyptus species grow in different parts, koalas in different areas may have slightly different diets.
Koalas eat as much as a full kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day; in fact, they don’t eat much of anything else. But eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to them! They have a unique organ inside their digestive systems to extract the poison so that it doesn’t kill them. They have very long digestive systems to accommodate their relatively poor diet. However, if they eat too many eucalyptus leaves, even their well-adapted bowels won’t save them; they really can eat themselves to death. It’s not unlike a person going to McDonald’s every day and convincing themselves that the cheeseburgers and milkshakes are healthy.
To safely process the leaves’ toxic chemicals, koalas are equipped with the unique microbes in their digestive tracts. Not only are these bugs able to break down the poisonous compounds, but the microorganisms can be passed from mother to baby koala. These specific microbes allow koalas the ability to flush the toxins out extremely quickly from their systems. That is the only way to eat their way through pounds of leaves every day without getting incredibly sick. Unlike koalas, if a normal herbivore set out on the all eucalyptus leaves diet, it will get gravely ill and eventually die.
When people are asked to picture a koala, one of the first images that comes to mind is one of them hugging onto a tree trunk. However, clinging to the side of the tree isn’t just a passing hobby for the furry little creature. You may think that koalas enjoy hugging the trunks of acacia trees, but they’re holding onto them to cool themselves off. The acacia trees serve as a kind of temperature-control device for hot summer days; as the weather heats up, the koalas go further down the trunks to even colder regions. It is a handy way to get rid of heat on a sweltering day.
Given that koalas spend so much time in trees, nobody wondered why they hugged the tree trunks. Many people thought they were taking a break on a more stable spot after eating leaves in the branches. While the region is relatively cool most of the year, the temperature routinely spikes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. So next time you see a picture of a koala hugging someone, just know that they are manipulating that person to regulate their own body temperature. If the weather is chilly, they are probably trying to warm up, not have a cute little cuddle.
The hands of koalas are remarkably similar to those of humans. If you compare a human fingerprint to a koala’s, you might not even be able to tell the difference because they are so indistinguishable. Not even a careful analysis under a microscope can easily distinguish the ridges on a koala’s fingers. Their palms also look much like ours, even lined with the same ridges. However, what sets koalas apart is that their hands are covered in warts. Both their hands and feet are riddled with them. Warts seem to be organized along certain lines as if they were meant to be there.
The remarkable aspect about koala prints is that they seem to have evolved independently. Koalas feed by climbing vertically onto the smaller branches of eucalyptus trees, reaching out, grasping handfuls of leaves, and bringing them to the mouth. Further, the origin of the fingerprints is best explained as the biomechanical adaptation to holding. That produces multidirectional mechanical influences on the skin. Their rough skin and warts help them travel within their home range and easily get their food. While humans and koalas have similar yet distinguished fingerprints, we can be thankful our hands are not covered in warts too!
Koalas may not be related to bears, but the size of their teeth and claws might convince you otherwise. In fact, given the choice between a bear and koala, after analyzing the size of the koala’s teeth and claws, you might decide to go for the bear. So what gives the impression that koala “bears” are cute and cuddly? Probably the fact that they look so much like teddy bears. However, teddy bears don’t carry chlamydia, have warts all over their hands, pee on people who are just trying to be helpful or eat poisonous leaves as their primary food source.
Koalas possess specialized claws for various purposes. Marsupials need specialized claws because they have to reach their mother’s pouch by climbing at the time of their birth. As they grow and mature, they spend their entire lives in trees and need more specialized claws to climb the trees. Their nails help them grab fresh eucalyptus leaves from the higher branches. The claws allow koalas to carve and engrave their territorial markings as well. They are sharp enough to leave dominant engravings on trees. Additionally, if another male challenges the dominant male for its territory and gets ready for a fight, these claws come in handy.
There are probably fewer than 80,000 koalas today, and some experts suggest less than 43,000. There are several reasons they are on the endangered list. They have been falling prey to habitat loss, as the eucalyptus forests in which they live are particularly prone to damage from changes in temperature and weather patterns. They are also being destroyed to make way for human settlements and agriculture. Koalas are only native to some states within Australia, and those individual states, rather than the national government, are responsible for their preservation. There is little coordinated effort to protect these disgusting creatures.
It has been said there is no legislation that effectively or consistently protects Koala habitat anywhere within Australia. However, this is not necessarily because the bill does not exist, but because there is not always the political will to adequately resource, implement, police, and enforce such legislation. There are four states where koalas occur in the wild. That includes Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. To make matters more challenging, each state has its own legislation. Local government is where most day to day decisions are made about what happens to the koalas’ habitat. However, it is also where there is often the least amount of resources and expertise in wildlife management or habitat assessment.
One of the quintessential features of koalas, apart from their two opposable thumbs on each hand and razor-sharp claws, is their creamy grey fur. Koalas in the southern part of Australia have thicker hair than their northern counterparts to help keep them warm during the colder winters. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people used to kill koalas in large numbers to obtain their fur. Today, hunting koalas is illegal, as they are an endangered species. Still, deforestation, both through fires and cutting down forests for human development, puts the creatures at high risk. It is also a challenge to police hunting koalas.
There have been over eight million koalas killed for the fur trade. Their pelts were shipped to London, the United States, and Canada. The koala was hunted as a matter of routine by the early settlers and explorers. The koala’s dense, waterproof pelt made it a valuable commodity on the international fur market, and demand increased accordingly. The koala had been hunted so indiscriminately that it had disappeared from many of its natural habitats. The poor animals were mainly poisoned and trapped as those methods did the least damage to the animal’s desired fur. During this time, the koalas narrowly escaped extinction.
6. Chlamydia Is Also Threatening Koala Populations
As many as 50 to 90% of female koalas today have chlamydia, and the disease affects koalas more than many other species. Clinics in Australia are working year-round to help koalas suffering from it, but one of its side effects – infertility – could permanently inhibit koala populations. Veterinarians in Australia have their hands full tending to koalas who have chlamydia. Each vet can treat hundreds of koalas per year, but they can barely make a dent in the broad population infected with the disease. Their best hope is to inoculate koalas against chlamydia before they become infertile.
It has been known that some antibiotics produce severe side effects in koalas with chlamydia. The main side effect is that the antibiotics disrupt the gut microbes that enable the digestion of eucalyptus leaves, the dietary staple for koalas. However, recently researchers are looking into two new antibiotic treatments that may offer relief to the furry animal with minimal side effects. Although it is unclear exactly why koalas are so vulnerable to this disease, it is well-known how detrimental it can be to their health. Although there were some side effects with the new antibiotics, they were much less severe compared to what has been known.
The majority of animals have varying gestation periods. Some are very short, while others are relatively lengthy. Baby koalas are also known as joeys. You might be shocked to learn that joeys are delivered while they are still in the embryonic stage of development. At this time, they might only weigh half a gram. At birth, they look a little funny in comparison to what you might expect. You might imagine that they would be tiny, cute, smaller versions of their adult selves. However, they look incredibly opposite of that. In fact, if you saw a koala joey, you may not even be able to identify what it is.
The koala joeys then take up residence in their mother’s pouch for up to six months. During this time, their main goal is to gain weight and develop into maturity. After a full month in the mother’s pouch, they still are only less than half an inch in length. Once the first six months are up, the baby koala joeys transfer from their mother’s pouch onto their mother’s back. Once there, they will spend another six months being carried around on their mother’s back. They will only go back into their mother’s pouch for nap times and feedings. Altogether, it is well over a year of gestation to fully develop and grow into adult size.
We have talked a little bit about a koala’s diet and how it is primarily eucalyptus leaves. Unlike most animals, koalas have a minimal diet and are extremely picky eaters. It might be surprising to wrap your head around how koalas can only eat one specific type of leaf. We’ve also mentioned how difficult eucalyptus leaves are. They are tough and high in fiber. To effectively consume and digest the eucalyptus leaves, koalas have their very own digestive organ. This specific organ is known as a caecum. Its primary function is to help them digest their diet of eucalyptus leaves.
The organ is critical to koalas and their survival. Generally speaking, eucalyptus is poisonous and cannot be consumed by the majority of animals and humans. If it is finished by someone who does not have the necessary components to digest it, it could have extremely harmful side effects. In koala, the caecum works to detoxify the offending chemicals. By doing this, the substances become delicious and nutritious for koalas. Interestingly, all of the eucalyptus they consume does cause koalas to smell slightly like cough drops. Without this specific organ, the koala would not benefit and survive off of these particular leaves.
3. Just Because They Are Lazy Doesn’t Mean They Are Slow
Since koalas spend anywhere between 18 and 20 hours a day sleeping, you might assume they are lazy and slow. If they seem incredibly lazy, it’s because they generally are. When you see a koala, the majority of the time, it will be when they are up in the trees. They often appear lethargic in trees as a way to conserve their energy. Their lack of energy is due to their diet. The eucalyptus leaves are high in fiber and provide the nutrients needed for koalas, but in comparison, they are not highly nutritious. However, just because they appear sluggish, you shouldn’t count them out.
It doesn’t help that in movies, shoes, and books, koalas are often portrayed as a tree-dwelling, lazy animal. They are not typically seen in action. Koalas are poorly adapted to walking on the ground, so they usually stay up in the trees where they are comfortable. However, when put into the right situation, koalas can break out at a fast pace. If they are frightened or feel threatened, koalas can break into a gallop, moving at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. Koalas typically lead a slow lifestyle most of the time and rest a lot. However, when they move, they can be fast, agile, and mighty.
A koala is often viewed as a cute, cuddly, and adorable Australian animal. As we have learned, there are many aspects of the koala that are unique and critical to their survival. One of the koala’s body parts that has many uses is its’ butt. Now you might wonder what these many uses could be. The koalas’ posteriors play an interesting role in helping them survive and thrive, specifically while perched up in the eucalyptus trees. The fur on their bottoms are densely packed and acts as a cushion while they spend so much time sitting and resting upright in the trees.
In addition to the extra padding cushion from their rear end, the end of their curved spine’s cartilage provides even more padding. All of these extra padding and cushion help koalas make the eucalyptus trees the most comfortable home. I’m sure we can all agree that if we were spending 18 to 20 hours a day sleeping in one spot, we would want to be as comfortable as we possibly could be! Another benefit to their bottom half is its appearance. The koala’s butt is white and speckled, which prevents predators from easily spotting them from the ground.
It is no surprise that wild animals may not smell the best. For starters, they live in the wild and are susceptible to all the elements. They might have to be outside during the rain, cold temperatures, and dirt. Depending on their habits and nature, they may not do the best job at cleaning themselves and therefore put off a little bit of an odor. Koalas are no exception. They have been known to have a bit of a distinctive scent, at least the males do. That doesn’t mean that females or juvenile koalas don’t smell as well, but they may have a very different smell.
Females and juvenile koalas tend to smell more like eucalyptus cough drops. That is mostly attributed to their diet of eucalyptus leaves. In comparison, male koalas have been said to put off an odor that is pungent compared to eucalyptus leaves. Mature males tend to have a more pungent smell because of their distinguished scent glands. The males will rub their chest up against trees to mark their territory and attract females at breeding time. The scent gland produces a strong, musky odor. Besides, koala joeys are taught to eat different species of trees, so they have a balanced diet and because other leaves act as a natural intellect repellent.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:
“Interesting Facts,” by Australian Koala Foundation. “Brutal And Terrifying Facts About Koalas, Who Are Actually Hateful And Miserable Animals,” by Justin Andress. Ranker.