The Koala is Not a Bear

The Koala, Phascolarctus cinereus, is an unusual Australian Marsupial. Most of the Marsupials of the world are from Australia. Apart from the Marsupials native to Australia and nearby places including New Guinea, the only one I know of is the Opossum of America.

The word Koala is based on the Australian Aboriginal name which is variously translated as ‘Animal that does not drink’ and ‘No Drink’. The name refers to the fact that the Koala normally does not drink water; I would expect that sometimes they can get dew off gum leaves in the morning. In extreme conditions Koalas can drink water. In the recent heat wave they came down from the trees and appeared desperate for water, even approaching humans. There was an amazing picture in the Courier Newspaper of a cyclist sharing his bottle of water with a Koala.

The normal diet of the Koala consists of Gum leaves of certain types. Their favourite is probably the Manna Gum, Eucalyptus viminalis, although they also like the River Red Gum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis. With the prolonged drought, the moisture content of these leaves had probably dropped, and the extreme heat was the final straw that forced the Koalas to come down and seek water.

A baby Koala is called a Joey, like a baby kangaroo. The Joey lives in its mother’s pouch for about six months and then rides on its mother’s back, becoming independent after about 12 months. Koalas live to about 12 years old.

They are listed as’rare’, but this does not give a full idea of what their numbers are like in specific areas. They are reasonably common in the Adelaide Hills.

The images on this page are from the book “Koala Kingdom” by Eddie Alfaro. For more info about the book, click here.