Wildlife : The Koala

Post Number: 58
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Common Name: Koala

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

 

Alternative Names: Koala bear, monkey bear, tree-bear, drop bear, native bear.  The name ‘koala’ comes from the Aboriginal Dharuk word gula, which means ‘doesn’t drink’.  The scientific name is derived from the Greek words for pouch and bear, which it’s species name is latin for ash-coloured.

 

Location: These furry guys are usually found along the coast in eastern and southern Australia in eucalytpus forests.  There are no koalas in Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

 

Fast Facts:

  • It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard – koalas are NOT BEARS!  They’re a marsupial and their closly related to the wombat.
  • They only eat eucalytpus leaves.  Even though Australia has over 600 varieties of Eucalypts, koalas are choosy and only like about 40 of those varieties.  The leaves are 50% water so they don’t drink much unless there is a drought.  Because their diet provides very little nutrients, they sleep about 75% percent of the time to conserve energy.
  • Koalas mate once a year, gestation lasts for just over a month and when the joey is born, it is hairless, blind and only an inch long.  It then crawls into the pouch and stays there for about 6 months to drink milk and grow.  To ween babies of milk, the mum’s make a sort of baby formula made out of eucalytpus leaves called ‘pap’ and feed it to the baby FROM THEIR ASS!  The mamma koala poos out the puree and the baby eats it… gross.
  • They can live as long as 17 years. The population of koalas has decresed by 90% in the last decade due to destruction of habitat, attack from suburban pets and cars.
  • The southern koala is bigger than koalas from the north and they have a shaggier coat to keep it warm in the winter.
  • Koalas are social animals that live in communities. The male koala marks his territory with secretions from a gland on his chest.
  • They prefer to be in trees, but when on the ground, they can move quite fast for a short distance.

 

Cuteness Rating: don’t let their cute teddy bear appearance lull you into a false sense of security

 

Danger Rating: they’ve got sharp teeth, long claws, and if you give them the chance, they could probably mess your face up.

Our Encounter

 

Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne

We were heading back to the car along a forest path after checking out the view from Teddy’s Lookout when we hear an animal growl.
The first thing that came to mind was a vicious warthog with blood red eyes snorting steam from its nostrils, ready to run us over and impale us with its sharp tusks.  The sound was also similar to the call of the Tasmanian Devil – terrifying and ugly.

 

Then we remembered that koalas make that terrifying, ugly sound too, so our eyes shot into the trees.  Sitting lazily in a tree about 20m ahead of us was a big one, just hanging out in the afternoon sun.  He kept his eye on us for a while, then got bored, did a great big yawn and kept munching on some gum leaves.

 

 

Cape Otway

On the way to the Lighthouse, there is a forest of gums.  It’s not too hard to spot them; there is a koala sitting in nearly every tree!  Many are bundled up asleep on a branch, but there are a few who are awake and trolling the trees for a decent leaf.

 

 

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