Koala Fun Facts for Kids – Australian Animals
There’s no denying that the Koala is one of the cutest animals on the face of the planet. And, although most people know that koalas live in Australia and eat eucalyptus leaves, there is so much more to know. Here’s the lowdown on the marsupials from Down Under.
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10. Are Koalas Bears? Although you may have heard people call them koala ‘bears’, these awesome animals aren’t bears at all, they’re actually marsupials. The Koala’s scientific name, Phascolarctos cinereus, loosely means “ash-grey pocket-bear,” but koalas are not bears. Their closest living relative is the wombat and they are related to kangaroos.
9. Koalas are nocturnal marsupials famous for spending most of their lives asleep in trees. During the day they doze, tucked into forks or nooks in the trees, sleeping for up to 18 hours. This sedentary lifestyle can be attributed to the fact they have unusually small brains and survive on a diet of nutrient-poor leaves. When not asleep a koala feeds on eucalyptus leaves, especially at night.
8. Koalas are territorial animals who live separately in their own home ranges. A home range consists of suitable trees that provide food and shelter and overlaps slightly with other koalas’ home ranges. Koalas define their territories by making scratch marks on trees; males also secrete a sticky brown substance from a scent gland in their chests that they rub on the bark. From August to February, koalas meet in the overlapping areas to mate.
7. When an infant koala – called a Joey – is born, it immediately climbs up to its mother’s pouch. About the size of a jellybean, blind and deaf, a Joey uses its strong sense of touch and smell, as well as natural instinct, to find its way. A joey grows and develops in the pouch for about six months. Once strong enough, the youngster rides around on its mother’s back for a further six months, only using the pouch to feed. The koala mother and her young enjoy a very close relationship. She happily carries her offspring around constantly until it is old enough to be independent.
6. Out of over a hundred species of eucalyptus trees that grow in Australia, the koala feeds only on twelve, and will only eat leaves at a particular stage of growth. Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous, but luckily for the Koala, he has a special digestive system—a long gut or caecum— which measures a colossal 6 feet and is packed with super micro-organisms that detoxify the leaves.
5. Koalas hug trees to keep cool. Scientists used thermal cameras to watch some koalas hanging out in trees and saw that when the weather was warm, the animals moved to lower parts of the trees and pressed themselves close to the trunks, wedging their bottoms right into the coolest spots.
4. Although these beautiful creatures are protected by law, and not classed as an endangered species, their habitat is under threat. Sadly, around 80% of koala habitat has been lost to human homes, drought and forest fires.
3. The word “koala” is thought to have come from the Aboriginal word meaning “no drink.” Although koalas do drink water on occasion, most of their hydration requirements are fulfilled by the moisture they get from eating eucalyptus leaves. In times of drought, however, they will seek water in streams.
2. Koalas may look soft and cuddly, but to the touch, not so much. They have a thick wooly fur that protects them from both heat and cold and also helps to repel water. In fact, their fur is the thickest of all marsupials.
1. A Koala’s front and rear paws each have five digits with sharp claws. Their hands have two opposable thumbs, much like a human’s thumb, and three fingers, which help them with climbing and gripping tree branches. Koalas have fingerprints that are virtually indistinguishable from human fingerprints and are often mistaken in criminal investigations.
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