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Koala Facts

Size 23-34 in (60-85 cm)
Speed Up to 18 mph (30 km/h)
Weight 8.8-33 lb (4-15 kg)
Lifespan 13-18 years
Food Eucalyptus leaves
Predators Birds of prey, dingos
Habitat Australia
Order Diprotodontia
Family Phascolarctidae
Scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus
Characteristics Exclusively feeds on eucalyptus leaves

Main Characteristics

Koalas are nocturnal marsupials living in the eucalyptus trees of Australia. Together with the kangaroos they are Australia’s best known animal species.

Koala Photo: worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock


What Do Koalas Eat?

Koalas fill their belly with 7-21 ounces (200-600 grams) of eucalyptus leaves every day. The little teddy bears would not accept anything else on their plate. Yet, they are still rather picky. The animals only like 30 out of 300 different sorts of eucalyptus. Some eucalyptus leaves are poisonous during springtime.


Koalas Are Sleepyheads

Koalas sleep about 14 hours every day. Yet, this does not seem to be enough. They spend additional four to five hours relaxing, as they are mostly tired from foraging food for four to five hours.

What Does the Name "Koala" Mean?

Koala is a word from the language of the Australian aborigines and means "doesn’t drink”. 

Koalas Drink Water – But Only When It Rains

Until now, it was assumed that koalas exclusively take up the water contained in the eucalyptus leaves. But this is not true. In 2020, researchers observed them drinking water on a regular basis - when it rains. They lick the rain drops running down the trees trunks.

Koala Photo: robert cicchetti/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Do Koalas Have a Good Sense of Smell?

Fortunately, koalas have a good sense of smell. After a short sniffing test they can tell which leaves are “good” and which are “bad”. They sniff very carefully and if they leaves are found to be ok, they are eaten. Koalas also prefer older leaves because they are less poisonous. They sometimes eat a bit of dirt, which helps them to digest the leaves. By the way: Did you know that koalas smell like eucalyptus sweets?


Can Koalas Swim?

No, they would drown.

Anatomy and Appearance

Koalas Have Two Opposing Thumbs

Koalas spend most of their time in trees. They have two opposing thumbs on each hand, because they need to have a firm grip while climbing. On the ground they are not quite as skilled in moving around but when they have to escape from a predator, they can "gallop" really fast: up to 18 mph (30 km/h)!

Koalas Use Their Claws as a Hand Comb

Koalas do not lick their fur as cats do, but use their claws as a comb to remove dirt and loose hair. Now, that's practical!

Enemies and Threats

Are Koalas a Threatened Species?

Yes, Koalas are considered an "endangered species". Their habitat is getting smaller as more and more forest is cleared to build houses and roads. Many koalas are also run over on roads.

Koala Photo: Andywak/Shutterstock


It takes 35 days until a koala baby is born. At the time of its birth it measures only about 0.78 inches (2 cm) and is rather helpless. It doesn't have a coat and can't use its eyes yet. Instead of exploring the world, it crawls into its mother’s pouch directly after its birth. After 22 weeks it opens its eyes and leaves the pouch after about six months.

Once the koala baby is strong enough to climb out of the pouch, this does not mean that the sweet life is coming to an end. Now the little koala can explore the world on its mother’s back for another six months.

Fun Facts

Koalas Can Be Stressed Out

Koalas wiggle their ears when feeling stressed. Sometimes they even develop a nervous hiccup. Stress also has a negative impact on the weak immune system (the body’s defences) of the koalas.

The Koala Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Marsupial Species Fact Sheets


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