Although the kangaroo is known as Australia’s famous animal, the koala is its other famous animal. You will sometimes hear that it is known as a koala bear, however it is not related to a bear at all. The word koala is adapted from the aboriginal word which means not to drink. Koalas do not need to drink as they get all their nutrition from a diet of eucalyptus leaves. A koala’s hands are designed to climb, and each koala has its own home tree that is not visited by other koalas except during mating season.
This attractive and very lazy animal sleeps during the day but often without trying to hide. They have beautiful fur that they have been terribly hunted for in the past when hundreds of thousands of koala skins were exported annually until protection laws were introduced. From near extinction they have now risen, but are subject to various diseases and vulnerable to many predators, such as cats and dogs, and are often victims of wildfires.
Most marsupials are so efficient that they need to eat a fifth less food than equivalent-sized placental mammals, but koalas have taken this efficiency a step further. Several years ago, biologists announced that koalas are the only living creature that has brains that do not fit their skulls. Instead, they have a walnut-sized wrinkled brain that rattles in a fluid-filled skull, though this has been disputed by other biologists.
However, it is clear that koalas are not the Einsteins of the animal world and are believed to have sacrificed their brains for energy efficiency. Brains cost a lot to function: our brains weigh 2% of our body weight but use 20% of the energy we consume. Koalas eat gum leaves that are so toxic that they use 20% of their energy simply by detoxifying this food in their highly specialized digestive systems, leaving little energy for the brain.
Koalas produce one baby every year. Your pregnancy lasts only thirty-five days before giving birth. Most of the growth and development takes place in the mother’s pouch.
At six months, her mother begins to produce a substance known as porridge, which the young feed on along with milk. Pap contains bacteria that will be necessary to digest eucalyptus leaves when they become adults.
At seven months they leave the pouch and return only to breastfeed until they are one year old.
The images on this page are from the book “Koala Kingdom” by Eddie Alfaro.
For more info about the book, click here.