The Koala (Phasclarctos cinereus) is a warm blooded mammal, whose closest living relative is the Wombat. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a bear. They almost resemble teddy bears in appearance, with a stout body and large paws but are actually marsupials.
Koalas inhabit eucalyptus forests of Eastern and Southeastern Australia. An adult koala eats about 0.5-1 kg. of leaves each night, but the nutrition they get from these leaves is poor. Therefore, they spend 75% of their time sleeping and move around just after sunset.
As with other marsupials, the baby koala, also known as a joey, is blind, hairless and tiny at birth (less than 1 inch). It crawls into its mothers pouch where it will stay, drinking milk for the next 6 months.
Koalas are Australia’s living icons. They are adorable, docile animals covered with thick grey-brown fur. They are the only mammals, other than the greater glider and ringtail possum, which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves.
They get their name from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning "no drink" because it receives over 90% of its hydration from the Eucalyptus leaves. The Koala's big nose is one of its distinctive features which gives it a highly developed sense of smell. It also has distinctive fingerprints like humans!
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Koalas used to be hunted for their soft fur, and their numbers dwindled from several million to a few hundred thousand. Koalas are confined by their diet to a specialised habitat of which around 80% has been destroyed. They are also threatened by road traffic and predation by dogs.
Today, the biggest problem for koalas is that their habitat is being destroyed to make way for houses. Koalas are protected by law but their homes and food are not.