Facts About Koalas
Author: Rebecca Robinson Date Posted:25 October 2023
Once abundant in Australia, the koala population is not what it once was. Today koalas can be found in selected areas of South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT. Koalas are under threat and they need our help to survive and thrive. There are many factors that have threatened the koalas over the years, ranging from habitat loss to dog attacks. We must work together to ensure that our beloved fluffy-eared friends are around for future generations.
What do Koalas Eat?
It’s pretty well known that koalas eat gum leaves, but did you know that eucalyptus leaves contain very little nutritional value and can be harmful to most mammals? Fortunately the koala’s unique digestive system with a slow metabolism helps them to get the most out of this unique, leafy diet.
While there are hundreds of different species of eucalyptus trees to choose from, koalas tend to rely on a select few. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources koalas rely on around 40 - 50 of the 700 species of eucalypt found in Australia. This selectiveness can prove to be a problem when it comes to land clearing and deforestation, as koalas may not have access to the varieties they need.
Even if the right varieties are available to koalas, the low amount of trees due to urbanisation will limit the number of koalas that can feed in any one area. This can mean that koalas eat the leaves faster than a tree can regrow them, causing trees to die. Koalas are forced to wander further distances in search of food, which puts them at risk of dehydration, accidents and attacks.
Baby koalas, just like kangaroos, are also known as joeys. Did you know that cute, fluffy baby koalas start out their lives blind, hairless and about the size of a jelly bean? They quickly crawl into their mother's pouch, where they nurse and develop and it will be months before they are riding on their mother’s backs.
As they grow, they transition from milk to a diet of eucalyptus leaves, inheriting crucial gut bacteria from their mothers to aid in digestion. Once a baby koala is old enough to be out and about they will begin exploring the world and learning important survival skills such as climbing and finding the right gum leaves to nibble on.
Are Koalas Endangered?
Sadly yes. Koalas are now classified as endangered in some states of Australia. This classification includes the koala population in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
Contributing factors that threaten koalas include climate change, habitat loss, disease, dog attacks and car accidents. Such threats have had a devastating effect on the koala population and in light of this, koalas were classified as endangered in 2022, which means they are at serious risk of extinction.
Koalas have been struggling for many years. According to the Australian Koala Foundation there has been an alarming 30% decline in the koala population between 2018 and 2022 alone. If the koala population continues to decline at this rate koalas may not be around for future generations. This is why it is up to us to help and protect koalas.
How Has Climate Change Affected Koalas?
Koalas face many challenges caused by climate change. High temperatures cause stress to koalas and recent bushfires have caused a tragic loss to the koala population and their habitat. A hotter climate also means that eucalyptus leaves are dryer, and koalas must come down from the safety of their trees to drink water. In urban areas, this often leaves koalas exposed to being hit by vehicles or attacked by dogs, both common causes of injury and death in koalas.
The Effect of Habitat Loss on Koalas
Deforestation and land clearing have had a huge impact on the koala population. Habitat loss means that koalas have far less opportunities for food and shelter. It also forces them to live in smaller colonies, which contributes to the spread of genetic disease. Diseases such as Oxalate Nephrosis, Chlamydia, kidney disease, dental disease and mange are common in koalas.
How Can We Save the Koalas?
There are some wonderful organisations and amazing people out there who are caring for and protecting koalas. At Earth Greetings we choose to support the Adelaide Koala & Wildlife Centre because they treat around 300 - 400 koalas every year, and rely on businesses and the public for funding. The research they do into koala disease and treatment is shared with other wildlife organisations throughout Australia.
You can help, by supporting the centre directly, or by shopping with us during Save the Koala Month. We donate $5 from every order during Save The Koala Month to Adelaide Koala & Wildlife Centre during September.
Cards and Stationery for Koala Lovers
Another way to support and celebrate koalas is to purchase any of our koala themed, earth-friendly products. With each purchase you make we will donate 10% to to care for native wildlife and restore habitat as well as grow a tree for life.
Koalas are not only cute but also precious and we want them to hang around for the long term. We want them to thrive and live abundantly around Australia. There are many challenges that the koala face and it is up to us to protect and take care of them. We can work together to support koala and wildlife organisations and seek out businesses that donate to them.