koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a small mammal that, despite their appearance, are actually marsupial animals, but they are so different that they are classified in their own group.

Frontal photo of a koala
Frontal photo of a koala

Features

The Koala is 60 - 85 cm in length and weighs up to 14 kg in the southern part of its range (Victoria), but only half as much in subtropical Queensland to the north.

It is one of the most charismatic marsupials. Its large and broad face, and its rounded ears of white hair that give it an appearance of a small bear, along with its lack of a visible tail and its wide, rounded and leathery nose, small yellow eyes and large, fluffy ears.

The coat is dense and smooth, gray or greyish brown in color, being lighter on the underside and mottled on the back.

Living in trees it has undergone adaptations that include short, powerful limbs that are tipped with sharp claws. They can climb even the smoothest bark thanks to two opposing thumbs and three fingers on each hand.

The brain is very small because this organ usually requires a large amount of energy and with its diet it would be impossible to maintain a large one.

Behavior

The koala is a solitary and nocturnal animal, and it spends most of the day sleeping (around 18pm). This inactivity is due to the fact that it only feeds on fibrous eucalyptus leaves, which makes them lead a slow pace of life to conserve as much energy as possible.

Everything is done in the trees, from eating to sleeping and even breeding. Although they have been seen lowering to the ground, they are only capable of moving from tree to tree.

It is also a sedentary animal, staying in a fixed area that varies in size depending on the availability of food. Despite their sedentary lifestyle, males and females establish territories that tend to overlap each other, but if the males do not tolerate rivals invading their territory and they will fight fiercely, scratching and dying.

It spends most of its life in trees, therefore it is considered an arboreal animal. They move by jumping from tree to tree, first grabbing the trunk with its front legs (thanks to the rough pads and claws) before moving both back legs up the tree, allowing it to climb higher.

Sleeping koala
Sleeping koala

Habitat

The koala lives in a wide variety of forests in southeastern Australia. Being resistant and adaptable, they inhabit various types of forests, from the eucalyptus forests, to the coastal regions and even the lower forests further inland.

Distribution

The koala is a native Australian animal and is only available there. Previously it was widespread throughout the southeast and on several surrounding islands, but southern populations were exterminated in some areas due to hunting.

Food

The koala is a herbivorous animal that feed on the leaves of the eucalyptus where they live.

Although there are more than 600 species of eucalyptus, they only feed on 30 of them which depends on the area where they live. These leaves are tough and fibrous, and are sometimes toxic, making them inedible to other herbivorous animals, but the koala has adapted to their consumption.

The leaves are stored in intestinal bags about 2 meters long, located on their cheeks. Once full, it begins to grind the leaves into pulp using its flat teeth, then the toxins are detoxified by the liver. The digestive tract is really long to break through tough leaves that are more than three times its body length.

They are also known to feed on dirt, bark, and gravel to aid in fiber digestion.

Due to their diet, they have little need to drink as they obtain the necessary amount from the leaves they consume.

Predators

The koala, despite being small, have very few natural predators with the exception of birds of prey. However, young koalas are the most vulnerable and are preyed upon by snakes, domestic animals such as dogs. Dogs also proclaim disease to local populations.

Reproduction

The koala is very noisy during the breeding season, the males can be eavesdropped through the forest to try to attract a female and to persuade potential rivals.

The dominant male is the one that manages to mate with most of the females, but although they are capable of reproducing from two years of age, they will not reproduce until they are between 4 - 5 years of age and have established their dominance.

Gestation lasts about 35 days and only a baby the size of a bee and underdeveloped will be born. As soon as he is born he crawls without help to the bag that his mother has in her womb. Inside it will feed on milk produced by two liners and will remain in the safety of its pouch for 6 - 7 months where it will grow dramatically.

When leaving the bag it will cling to the mother's back for a few more months or until the calf for the next season has developed and is ready to leave the bag.

After spending the first few months of life consuming milk, you will switch to solid foods. The first of these will be your mother's soft excrements. They are believed to do this because they contain a number of microbes that help protect them from various diseases and begin to get used to and digest the tough fibers of eucalyptus.

State of conservation

Current koala populations are stable and widespread. They are classified by the NICU as "Least Concern."

Yet they are being affected by the loss of habitat due to extensive deforestation of land to support growing development. Populations are also suffering, isolating them from each other.

However, not only humans have participated in the decline of the species, forest fires can devastate large areas in a matter of minutes and seriously affect local populations.

Some populations can be infected by bacteria, although the most prevalent is the Chlamydia bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics.

Populations settled on islands are affected by overpopulation, since the more individuals, the less food to distribute.

Relationship with humans

It is currently considered one of the most emblematic mammals, but in the past it was not. When the first European settlers arrived in Australia, thousands of them were hunted for their skins.

It was very abundant in all the forests of southeastern Australia, but the intense hunting of the skins, at the beginning of the 1924th, caused a decrease in populations and even extinction in some areas. The industry peaked in XNUMX when two million skins were traded, sparking various public protests that led to laws being put in place to prohibit hunting and protect them. Since then the populations have increased again.

Popular culture

The koala is often called a "koala bear" because of its resemblance to them, but in reality they are not. It is extremely popular due to its childlike body proportions and teddy bear face.

Si se hiciera un sondeo de paja del animal más estrechamente asociado con Australia, es justo apostar a que el koala saldría marginalmente delante del canguro

Según el biólogo Stephen Jackson.

It is common to find them among the legends of the indigenous Australians, mentioning themselves in myths, legends and stories of the country. The Tharawal people believed that the animal helped them row in the boat that took them to the mainland. Another legend tells how a hunter lost his boomerang and decided to look for it, and it killed a koala. He stretched his body to create a bridge to another land far away. Many people crossed that bridge to reach what is now known as Australia for the first time. The bridge turned the colors of the rainbow and turning a child into the first koala. There is an alternative version that says the bridge was created with his long intestines.

Other stories tell how he lost his long tail. In one of them, a kangaroo cut it off to punish him for being a lazy and greedy animal.

The first European settlers considered it a lazy, lazy prowling animal with a "fierce and threatening look" but during the XNUMXth century it acquired great popularity due to various children's tales.

  • Ethel Pedley wrote a book in 1899 titled "Dot and the Kangaroo" in which he is depicted as a "funny native bear."
  • In 1904 in the cartoons of The Bulletin by Norman Lindsay an anthropomorphic koala can be seen. The same character appeared as Bunyip Bluegum in another book by the same author The Magic Pudding, 1918.
  • The most famous fictional Koala is known as Blinky Bill. It was created in 1933 by Dorothy Wall. This character has appeared in books, movies, television series, merchandise, and in a 1986 John Williamson song.
  • In 1930 an Australian stamp was issued by the Commonwealth Company.
  • In 1967, the airline Qantas ran a decades-long TV ad campaign that featured a live koala (voiced by Howard Morris) insisting that too many tourists flocked to Australia with the slogan "I hate Qantas" (I hate to Qantas). It was awarded as the best commercial ever created.

He is also mentioned in the song "Ode to a Koala Bear" featured on the B-side of the 1983 Paul McCartney / Michael Jackson duet single Say Say Say.

In Hanna-Barbera's The Kwicky Koala Show and Nippon Animation's Noozles, he appears as the main character, both cartoons from the early 1980s. Koala-shaped food products include the Caramello Koala chocolate bar and the cookie sandwich. small Koala's March.

The Dadswells Bridge in Victoria features a giant koala-shaped resort and the Queensland Reds rugby team has a koala as a mascot.

The Platinum Koala coin features the animal on the reverse and Elizabeth II on the obverse.

The blob bear is an imaginary creature in contemporary Australian folklore that features a predatory and carnivorous version of the koala. This joking animal is commonly spoken in tales designed to scare tourists.

While koalas are typically docile herbivores, teddy bears are described as unusually large and vicious marsupials that inhabit the treetops and attack unsuspecting people (or other prey) who walk beneath them by throwing themselves on their heads from up.

List of other interesting animals