Koalas are the ultimate cute and cuddly animal. The eucalyptus-eating marsupials are known for their big furry ears and adorably large nose, but there are so many more koala facts you should know—including how they help save the planet.
But before we get into the fun koala facts, it’s important to discuss why koala populations are declining in the first place.
Why Koalas Are at Risk
While koalas aren’t officially listed as endangered (just “threatened”), the only koalas that exist in the wild are located in Australia. Currently, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) says there are less than 80,000 left in the wild due to climate change, habitat destruction, and bushfires.
Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air have reduced the amount of nutrients in eucalyptus leaves, koalas’ main food source, which can lead to malnutrition and starvation. If koalas leave the safety of the trees to find leaves that are more nutrient-rich, they become at risk of two other sources of population decline: animal attacks and road accidents.
Koala populations are also decreasing due to habitat loss, as the land they call home is being torn down to create pastures for livestock. There’s also the bushfires that have devastated parts of Australia in recent years, killing 6,382 koalas in 2019-2020 season alone.
With all of these factors working against them, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says koalas on the east coast of Australia could be extinct by 2050 if we don’t act now.
“Climate change is killing koalas and the trees they live in,” says Stuart Blanch, a conservation scientist for WWF-Australia. “Worsening droughts, heatwaves, and extreme bushfires are escalating the rate of koala decline on the east coast, so even when their habitats aren’t cut down, there may be no koalas living there.”
When we make sustainable choices to reduce our carbon footprint, we’re helping save these furry critters. You can also go a step further and support groups that protect koalas, like AKF and Friends of the Koala. Here are some koala facts that will inspire you to keep pushing forward.
7 Koala Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
1. They Benefit the Planet by… Pooping?
Koalas produce up to 360 tiny pellets per day (even while they’re sleeping!), which fertilize the forest floor, helping woodlands grow and regenerate.
2. They Aren’t Bears—They’re Marsupials
Koalas are often called “koala bears” from their bear-like looks, but they’re actually marsupials. Like kangaroos and opossums, koala babies—called joeys—crawl into their mother’s pouch and stay there, enjoying an unlimited supply of milk until they’re fully developed. After around six months, they emerge.
3. They Snooze Most of the Day
Koalas don’t have any issues getting enough sleep, often snoozing for 18 to 20 hours each day. They’re also mostly nocturnal, staying awake at night to eat. And the reason why they sleep so much? Their furry little bodies require a lot of energy to digest those fibrous eucalyptus leaves, and sleeping conserves their energy for what matters most.
4. They Sound Like a Motorcycle When They Speak
While koalas seem pretty quiet, they do make noises to communicate with each other. Joeys make adorable squeaking sounds. As for the adults, the noise has been compared to a revving motorcycle. An interesting sound you have to hear to believe:
5. They Rarely Drink Water
Koalas don’t drink a lot of water. In fact, their name comes from the Aboriginal word meaning “no drink.” While they do occasionally drink actual water, they get most of the moisture they need from eating eucalyptus leaves.
6. They Smell Like Eucalyptus
Koalas eat so many eucalyptus leaves every day (typically up to one pound each!) that they actually smell like the plant. And who wouldn’t want to smell like a cough drop?
7. They Generally Live 10 to 14 Years
The average lifespan of a koala is 10 to 14 years in the wild when they live in suitable habitats. Unfortunately, despite the potential of a long life, the previously mentioned threats to koalas—like habitat destruction and bushfires—can majorly shorten their lifespan.
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