Australian Animal Archive

Australian Koala.
Phascolarctos cinereus.
(sin-er-ay'-us: "ash-coloured pouched-bear")

Status: Abundant.

Australian Koala

The Koala is one of Australia's most well known marsupials. During the daylight hours Koalas can often be see dozing on a low forked branch of its home tree. Young Koalas are often seen hugging their mother back or snuggling against her while she dozes. At night the Koala will move vigorously to it favourite food source and often act aggressively to rival Koalas.

In open forests and woodlands Koalas descend from the safety of the trees and scurry across the ground, and can even swim water courses, to move from its base tree to its feeding trees.

Although the Koala ranges may overlap, the Koala is a solitary and very antisocial animal. Interaction becomes frequent and spectacular during the summer mating seasons. The interaction can include violent confrontations with rival males. Dominant male Koalas will chase and attack rival males, consequently male Koalas can be easily recognised by numerous battle scars inflicted by other male Koalas.

At dusk during the mating season males can be heard bellowing to attract females. Their low pitched roars can be heard hundreds of meters through the forest. This bellowing also acts as a warning to other male Koala who may be in the area.

Sexual maturity is reached at two years of age but due to competition of rival, more mature males they seldom mate until their third or fourth year. Most mating occurs between October and February. The female Koala has two teats in downward opening pouch and usually only one young is born. On extremely rare occasion twins can be born.

Infant Koalas are first seen peering from their mothers pouches when they are about six months old when the baby koalas are weaned. Weaning the Infant Koalas on to eucalypt leaves is a very daunting task. The leaves are poor in nutrients, have high levels of toxins and contain many indigestible compounds. To ready their young for its new diet the mother produces a substance called 'pap'. Pap is a soft faeces which is eaten by the infant which allows them to gain the microbes needed to digest foliage.

Between bouts of chewing, young Koalas store chewed leaves in their cheek pouches this allows many of the needed nutrients to be released. The toxins contained in the leaves are filtered and removed by the liver.

At the age of 12 months infant Koalas become independent and disperse to form their own home ranges.

Characteristics:
Large 50 to 82 cm with no visible tail, large rounded ears with fluffy tuffs, large, black nose. Soft, wooly fur, pale grey to grey-brown in colour.
Habitat:
Eucalypt forests and woodlands. Common in coastal forest regions. Widespread inland where Eucalypt trees grow.
Behaviour:
Inactive for up to 20 hours a day. This inactivity allows the Koala to conserve energy enabling the Koala to survive on a poor quality diet. Moves between trees on all fours, bounding when threatened. Excellent swimmers and have a well defined home range.
Breeding:
Single young born in Summer and remains in the mothers pouch for 6 months.
Feeding:
Eats only Eucalypt leaves.
Voice:
Usually silent. Males give deep snorting bellows during breeding seasons.









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