Koala Species Overview
The Koala species belongs to a group of animals known as marsupials. They are different from other animals in the way they have offspring. They do give live birth but at a very early stage of development. Then the young go into the pouch where the eat, are kept warm, and they continue to grow. They will stay there for approximately six months before they emerge.
There are plenty of questions we still have about the Koala species. Three subspecies have been recognized: Victorian Koala, Queensland Koala and New South Wales Koala. They vary in some physical characteristics such as size, coat and skull shape.
We do know that they have been around for millions of years. Many people used to believe that they were related to bears. However, DNA evidence shows that there is absolutely no genetic link to these animals at all. Even so, that is a thought that continues to linger. It isn’t uncommon to hear them called Koala Bears even though that is incorrect.
Koalas are very small marsupials with an overall size of about 2 or 3 feet. They also range in size from being about 9 pounds to those that are large at 29 pounds. They have large noses and small eyes. They also have a body that is covered with thick fur. They coloring can including gray, black, brown, and white.
The Koalas live mainly in the trees but they do come down onto land when they need to. Sometimes they do so in order to find water, to find a new place to live, in search of food, or to find safety. However, they spend almost their entire lives up in the trees. There they can hide from predators. They don’t swing from trees though as many people assume. Instead, they climb up and down trees.
They are isolated animals that will often live around many others though. While they do have some basic communication with the others around them, they tend to want to be alone most of the time. The exception is when they are mating or when the females are caring for young. They are excellent caregivers and it is heart warming to watch how they interact with their young.
The Koala has a very slow metabolism and they don’t get much energy at all from the food they consume. This is why they rest and sleep from 18 to 22 hours per day. They spend the rest of their time looking for food or grooming. They hunt for food at night when it is cooler so that they conserve the moisture in their bodies.
They consume some types of eucalyptus tree leaves. When they have a hard time finding these sources of food they will try to find some others out there to survive on. They are picky eaters though and will bypass many types of leaves in search for those that they like.
Based on fossilized remains, we know that the Koala has been on Earth for approximately 40 million years. Many wonder how such a slow moving animal is able to continue living in a changing environment. The answer though is that they have dropped significantly in number. There is less than ½ the number of Koalas that there were just 10 years ago.
Today there are many factors that affect the future for these animals. Humans destroying their environment and starting fires are main reasons that they find it difficult to survive. The introduction of roads, dogs, and even various diseases continue to be threats to them. The balance for them with humans is one that isn’t in their favor at this point in time.
Some conservation groups do realize that the future for the Koala is uncertain. They are doing all they can to raise awareness about the needs of these animals. They strive to get their natural environment protected so that they can continue to live there without risks.