When you think about Australia, one of the things that come into our minds is its wildlife. When we are asked what animal we think of, the first thing that enters our mind is the Kangaroo. But the Kangaroo also has a cuddly cousin that is native in the country, and that is the Koalas Bear.
Koalas are also an iconic Australian animal. Though they look cuddly and furry, the hair of the Koalas is more like sheeps’ wool. Their feet and hands have rough pads and have claws for climbing and grabbing branches from trees. If you want to know more about these adorable creatures and how fascinating they are, continue reading this article.
They are not bears, they are marsupials
Don’t let the name fool you, but koala bears are not related to bears, but they are related to Kangaroos and Wombats, which are marsupials. This is one of the many Koala facts that we are going to talk about. If you don’t know what marsupials are, they are mammals with a pouch on their belly for their offspring’s development.
Many people think that Koalas are bears. This started when Europeans came to Australia and thought that Koala are bears because they look like a fluffy teddy bear, and thus they were called “Koala Bears”. Though they were also called the Native Bears in Australia, they are marsupial mammals. Same with the Kangaroo, their offspring are also called a joey.
A Koalas’ Diet
Koalas are arboreal herbivorous marsupials. They have an exclusive diet, which is eucalyptus leaves, and it is the primary source of their daily needs. Koalas have a very specialized digestive system designed to manage low nutrition-high fiber content, and the leaves’ toxic compounds. It takes 100 to 200 hours to process their food in their stomach.
Koalas get a minimal amount of energy from their diet, that is why they sleep so much. Koala can sleep from 18 hours to 22 hours. Although they sleep in trees all the time, they still need to get hydrated. Koala also get their water from the eucalyptus leaves. Every so often, koalas come down from their trees to drink.
Female koalas only come down for a drink when they cannot get enough eucalyptus to eat. Koalas can consume 400 grams of leaves per day. This is usually a sufficient supply for all the water they needed. Male Koala, on the other hand, require more water than females. That is why male koalas can be seen drinking from clean water sources in the ground.
One interesting fact about Koalas is their females. Female koalas mature sexually faster than males. A female koala can start mating and get pregnant as early as the age of three, unlike the males, they can start breeding at the age of four. Did it ever occur to you that a female koala has three vaginas? Yes, they do.
They got it from their marsupial heritage, which is typical for females to have a three-vagina structure. The side branches carry the sperm to the two uteruses, and the middle one delivers the joey to the outside world. Female Koalas also prefer to get pregnant once a year and in alternating years. They choose to get pregnant depending on the factors like food availability.
There is a retrovirus that is existing in many populations of Koalas. It caused the Koala Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (KIDS), which is their own version of AIDS. The origin is currently unknown, but the virus has already scattered in the northern koala population and continues to spread in the southern population. This makes the infected koalas more prone to cancer and other diseases.
Early this year, Australia experienced terrifying bushfires that caused death to five thousand koalas and destroyed twenty-four percent of their habitats on public lands. Though bushfires are common in Australia outback due to its hot and dry climate, koalas have always suffered from this kind of occurrence.
Because koalas live among the branches and leaves of eucalyptus trees, they are at risk of bushfires’ hazards. When this happens, koalas don’t usually run away from the fires but instead, they go up higher in the trees, which would lead them to die because either the tree will cave in from the fire or they suffocate from the smoke.
Koala are one of the unique animals on the planet and can only be found in Australia’s tall eucalypt forest and low eucalypt woodland. With the significant loss of the koalas’ population due to bushfires that happened early this year, koala now are starting to be vulnerable and later endangered. If you want to learn more about these snuggly creatures, you can search for them and learn how to save them.