Koala, an Australian marsupial (animal that suckles its young in a pouch). The koala lives in trees and feeds almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves. Its sturdy, tailless body is about 24 inches (60 cm) long. The koala has large, rounded, shaggy ears. Its fur is mostly ashy gray. The koala has strong claws which it uses for climbing. The large toe of each foot and the first two fingers of each forepaw are opposable. Since the early 1900's, the number of koalas has greatly decreased, mainly because of loss of habitat.The koala has shaggy ears, gray fur, and strong claws for climbing.
The koala (koh AH luh) looks like a teddy bear, but it is not a bear at all. Koalas are marsupials. Like kangaroos, female koalas have pouches where young koalas feed and grow. Unlike kangaroos, however, koalas have pouches that open to the rear of the body. Special muscles around the opening of the pouch can be closed to hold a baby inside. This way, young koalas remain safe as their mothers move around.
Koala mothers and their young enjoy a close relationship. A baby koala lives in its mother’s pouch for about seven months. Then it rides on its mother’s back for the next six months. The baby koala even sleeps in this “piggyback” position. If a baby koala gets separated from its mother, it will give a loud cry. The baby will cry until it is reunited with its mother.
During most of the day, a koala sleeps high up in the fork of a eucalyptus tree. The koala spreads its toes and grasps the sides of the tree. Its strong legs and sharp claws help it tightly grasp the trunk.
When the koala moves to a different tree, it usually climbs down to the ground first. Then the koala climbs up the trunk of a nearby tree. The koala may also jump from tree to tree if the forest is thick and the trees are close together.Koalas rarely drink water. The name koala means no drink in the native Australian language.
Eucalyptus trees are important to people and to koalas. People use oil from these trees to make eucalyptus cough drops and other medicines. Koalas eat the leaves from these trees. That is why koalas smell like cough drops.Koalas need to live in very thick forests because they eat so many leaves. An adult koala eats from 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 0.9 kilograms) of eucalyptus leaves a day.
Koalas are very picky eaters. They may feed on one leafy tree and pass up another. That’s because some eucalyptus trees contain an extremely deadly poison in their leaves. Koalas are very careful to avoid these very deadly trees. But they eat plenty of the other trees.
The koala is Phascolarctos cinereus of the family Phascolarctidae.