10 Fact Friday – Koalas

Kicking off the first “10 Fact Friday” is a cute, but not overly cuddly, Australian native – the Koala.

From the early 1800’s to the 1920’s Australia’s population of koalas took a massive blow, millions were hunted and killed for their fur. Since then over 80% of their habitat has been destroyed. The Australia Koala Foundation believes there are now between 43,000 to 100,000 individual animals left in the wild.

There more I researched these unusual creatures for this article, the more I realised what awesome animals they are! Some of the facts below are really interesting and I learnt a lot from them. Hopefully, you’ll find them as intriguing as I did?

  1. First and foremost koalas are not bears, despite being commonly referred to as such. In fact, these arboreal herbivores are marsupials – so they more similar to wombats and kangaroos than they are grizzlies.

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2. Koalas sleep between 18 to 22 hours a day! This is because their diets consist largely of eucalyptus leaves, which are low in nutrition and difficult to digest. Eating them requires a large amount of energy, so sleeping for long periods helps them to conserve that vital energy.

3. There is no name, or collective noun, for a group of koalas because they are predominantly solitary creatures. Instead, a number of the animals is usually called a “koala population” or “koala colony”.

4. At birth, a baby koala is about 19mm long and weighs just 0.5g. Like kangaroos, mother koala’s care for their young in a pouch. Koala cubs, or joeys, are born blind, deaf, and hairless but have well-developed shoulders and forelimbs; as well as functioning digestive, urinary and respiratory systems. 

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5. There was once several species of koala, one being an extinct species called the Phascolarctos stirtoni, or more simply giant koala. The giant koala existed some 50,000 years ago, alongside most of Australia’s “megafauna”. Despite the name, giant koalas were estimated to only be around a third bigger than our modern day koalas and weigh around 13kg, that’s roughly the size of a cocker spaniel.

6. Koalas in the south of Australia are larger and heavier than those in the north. The Southern koala’s fur is thicker, longer and more brownish toned than the typical grey too. Opinions differ between scientists on whether these variations mean there are different sub-species of the koala.

7. Quickly think of three Australian animals and I guarantee one of those will be the koala. According to the 2014 Australia Koala Foundation report, the koala is worth a massive $3.2 billion dollars to the Australian tourism industry and responsible for creating around 30,000 tourism-related jobs. A huge 75% of foreign tourists mentioned that they hoped to see a koala when visiting the country.

8. Koalas have individual fingerprints, just like primates and humans! They don’t share an ancestor with us, and they’re separated from apes by 70 million years of evolution. So what’s the similarity? Fingerprints are an adaption for grasping. Once upon a time, humans relied on grasping for survival, and to an extent we still do. Primates rely on grasping leaves and fruits to eat, and in the same way, koalas have to climb trees and grab ahold of their food too.

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9. Scientists discovered that koalas have a unique “extra pair of vocal folds” outside the larynx that allows them to produce low-pitched mating calls, and communicate with each other. They are capable of squeaking, squawking, bellowing, and grunting amongst other things!

Check the video out below, and hear it for yourself:

10. And finally, it’s a common misconception that koalas don’t drink water. Typically they get all the moisture they need from the eucalyptus leaves, a single leaf can contain as much as 55% water. However, droughts and rising temperatures are causing the animals to find an alternative water source. They have been spotted sipping from swimming pools, bird baths, buckets, lakes, and even specially designed water stations. Consequently, koalas drinking may be a sight we all start seeing way more often.

Did you enjoy my first “10 Fact Friday”? What animal would you like to see featured next? Let me know in the comments below

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