World Wildlife Day Wisdom Series (5 of 8)Begin
Koalas survive exclusively on a diet of eucalyptus leaves and can eat up to a kilogram a day! Even within their exclusive diet, they can be quite picky eaters, eating less than 50 of over 700 eucalyptus tree species. Eucalyptus is actually toxic to most animals, but koalas have a special digestive organ that helps to detoxify the chemicals in the leaves.
False! Although sometimes called "koala bears," koalas are marsupials and aren't closely related to bears. Being marsupials, they are actually more closely related to kangaroos and wombats!
Baby koalas are known as joeys! Koalas only give birth to one baby at a time, which first peeks its head out of the mother's pouch at about five months old. As the joey gets larger and is weaned, it leaves the pouch and will hang on to its mother's back until its first birthday.
"Koala" is thought to mean "no drink" in the Australian Aboriginal language. Koalas DO drink from various water sources when needed - especially during hotter periods or droughts - but generally do not need to drink often, as they get most of their water from the eucalyptus leaves that they feed on all day.
Habitat loss has become a critical issue to koalas. Since the time of the first European settlements, farming, urban development, and the increased frequency of bushfires due to climate change have destroyed approximately 80% of the Eucalyptus forests that koalas depend on for survival.
All of the above factors make habitat loss extremely detrimental for koalas. When forced to move from tree to tree (or when relocated by humans), koalas experience high levels of stress, which can cause dangerous stress-induced diseases like chlamydia. When moving trees, koalas are also forced to come back down to the ground, where they move slowly and are vulnerable to dogs or cars.
Based on January estimates, up to 30% of koala habitat has been destroyed as a result of the fires. Australia's Federal Environment Minister also estimates that as a result, a third of the koala population could have been wiped out - burned alive or choked from the smoke. Koalas aside, half a billion animals have been affected by the New South Wales fires alone.
While many fires are started accidentally or purposely by humans, it IS true that bush fires do happen naturally on occasion. However, as the human-induced climate crisis worsens, temperatures continue to rise and droughts become more frequent. This has increased the frequency and severity of bush fires in recent years, which can destroy entire areas of forest in a short period of time.
Koalas are not the only species at risk. Countless other animal and plant species depend on natural spaces to thrive yet are losing their habitats and the biodiversity within them at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Add your voice to call on world leaders to take urgent action to protect and restore nature.