Koalas live in the eucalyptus forests of Eastern and South-Eastern Australia. They look like cuddly teddy bears, but they are not really bears at all. Koalas are marsupials, which are animals that have pouches in which they carry their babies. Koalas prefer to move around after sunset. They spend their days sleeping- in fact, a koala sleeps 75% of the time!
A koala is around 36 inches tall- about as tall as a 4year old- but weighs only as much as a 10 month old baby- around 20 pounds. Koalas survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. They seldom drink water because they obtain it from the eucalyptus leaves which are 50% water. Koalas consume eucalyptus leaves and bark from 12 different eucalyptus tree species. They also consume mistletoe and box leaves. Each koala eats a tremendous amount for its size—about two and a half pounds of leaves a day. They even store leaves in cheek pouches to snack on. Their digestive system is especially adapted to detoxify the poisonous chemicals in eucalyptus leaves.
Koalas were once hunted so much that their numbers dropped alarmingly, but conservation efforts have helped their population to increase again. Koalas need a lot of space—about a hundred trees per animal. As Australia’s woodlands are shrinking, this is a real problem for this little animal. While Koalas can be seen in many zoos, it would be a pity if none were left in the wild because of the disappearance of the eucalyptus forests that are their home. We must all work together to see that this does not happen.