Koala is a small, cute, meek animal that lives only on one continent - Australia. In the Aboriginal language, the word "koala" means "does not drink." The animal and the truth almost does not drink water, content with moisture contained in eucalyptus leaves. His Greek-Latin generic name "Phascolarctos" means "marsupial bear." Koala has been called a bear for a long time, but it is not a bear, and it has nothing to do with bears, except that it looks like a fluffy teddy bear. In fact, the koala is marsupial, it is the only modern representative of the Koalov family (Phascolarctidae).
Today the koala is the most beloved marsupial animal of the Australians, one of the recognized symbols of Australia, but this was not always the case. The first European settlers destroyed millions of these defenseless animals for thick fur. However, eucalyptus cuttings, drought and fires were even more dangerous for the survival of the species. The threat to koalas reached a peak in 1924, when more than 2 million skins were exported. By that time, the koalas had disappeared in South Australia and in most areas of Victoria and New South Wales. As a result of public protest, a ban on hunting was introduced beginning in 1944, and only 10 years later their population began to recover. Currently, in some areas, in particular in the south of the range, the koala has again become a common species, and the IUCN is quoted as the least worrying animal. However, intensive deforestation is a threat to the northern populations.
Koala description and photo
Appearance of koalas is characteristic: the body is short and stocky, the head is large, round, with small eyes, large fluffy ears and a stretch of bare skin on the nose. The tail is rudimentary, almost invisible from the outside. The color of the thick and soft fur on the dorsal side varies from gray to reddish-brown, on the chin, chest and inner surface of the forelimbs the fur is white. Ears are bordered with long white hair, the sacrum is covered with white spots. In the north of the habitat, the fur of the animals is shorter and less frequent.
The body length of koalas is 70–85 cm, weight is 7–12 kg. Males are more massive than females, they have a wider muzzle, and the size of auricles is smaller. In addition, the males have a fragrant gland on the chest, with which they leave tags on the trees within their territory. Females have a double-nipple opening bag.
Koala is wonderfully adapted for a sedentary woody lifestyle. His body is covered with thick fur, which protects the animal from the weather and temperature fluctuations, which is very important - there are no shelters or shelters for koalas. Large paws are equipped with strongly curved claws, thanks to which the animal can easily climb onto the tallest tree with smooth bark. In the photo are good kinds of powerful and strong koala claws. If the beast plunges them into a tree, it will not fall down.
Climbing on eucalyptus, the koala grasps the trunk with strong forepaws, moving the body upwards and at the same time pulling the forelegs. On the hind legs, the first finger is contrasted with the rest, the second and third are almost fused. On the front paws, the first and second fingers are opposed to the rest, providing a firm grip during climbing. Soles of paws are bare, with palparnom pattern. An interesting fact is that the koalis' fingerprints are almost identical to the human ones.
There are 30 koala teeth in total, in the upper jaw there are three pairs of incisors and rudimentary fangs. The teeth are well adapted to feeding on eucalyptus leaves containing a large amount of fiber. Chewed leaves undergo microbial fermentation in the cecum, which is the longest relative to the body length among all mammals (its length is 1.8-2.5 meters).
In the photo, the koala habitually absorbs the leaves of a favorite eucalyptus tree.
The koala brain compared to body size is one of the smallest among mammals, only 0.2% of the total body weight. Scientists believe that this is due to the adaptation to a low-calorie diet.
Where does koala live?
Koals live only in Australia, where they are found on many hundreds of thousands of square kilometers in the east of the continent from northern Queensland to southern Victoria. Populations of these marsupials are often separated from each other by wide expanses of felled forests. Koalas have chosen wet mountain forests in the south, grape plantings in the north, groves and semi-desert landscapes in western Australia. Population density depends on land productivity. In the south, in the rain forests it reaches 8 animals per hectare, and in the semi-desert zone on a site of 100 hectares only one individual can live.
How does a koala live in nature?
The life of koalas is closely related to the trees of the genus Eucalyptus, in whose crowns they spend almost all their time. Most of the day (18-20 hours) they spend on sleep, it takes 2-3 hours to feed, the rest of the time the animals just sit. Only occasionally they descend to the ground in order to run from one tree to another.
Koals usually sleep during the day, while at night they are occupied by the fact that they slowly absorb eucalyptus leaves. The movements of the animals are usually very slow, lazy, although the frightened animal can move very agile.
Koalas are sedentary. Most of them are loners, they rarely live in pairs. Adult animals occupy certain habitats. In favorable conditions, these areas are relatively small: the male can occupy only 1.5-3 hectares, females and even less - 0.5-1 hectares. In areas of poor vegetation, the male’s site may be more than 100 hectares. The territory of the dominant male can cover areas up to 9 females, and also areas of subordinate males. Each animal in the individual plot has several favorite feeding trees.
In nature, the koala lives up to 10 years, the maximum known life expectancy in captivity is 18 years.
What do koalas eat? Eucalyptus diet
Evergreen eucalyptus leaves provide koalas with a constant source of food. An adult individual eats about 500 grams of fresh leaves per day, and although more than 600 species of eucalyptus trees grow on the Green Continent, koala eats only 30 of them. In different regions, preference is given to different types of eucalyptus, but mainly to those that grow in conditions of high humidity.
Such a diet at first glance may seem dubious, because eucalyptus leaves are inedible or even poisonous for most herbivores. They are poor in nutrients and contain a lot of indigestible fiber, as well as toxic phenols and terpenes. However, these animals have several gadgets that help them cope with such inedible food. They do not eat some leaves at all, the poisonous components of others are neutralized by the liver and removed from the body. Since the diet is low in calories, koalas sleep up to 20 hours a day. They save water, and with the exception of the hottest weather, they get the necessary moisture from the eaten leaves. Thus, evolution gave the koalas a source of food available all year round, and also saved them from food competition.
Koalas are polygamous, with a small number of males accounting for most matings. But the details of the distribution of matings between dominant and subdominant animals are not fully understood.
Both female and male koalas reach sexual maturity at the age of two years. From the same time, females begin to breed, while the males start breeding 2-3 years later, when they become large enough to compete for the female.
The breeding season occurs in the spring and early summer (September – January). At this time, the males move over very long distances, with encounters between them often occur skirmishes. During the "weddings" "grooms" constantly roar. These cries, consisting of loud breaths, followed by bubbling exhalations, are designed to attract the attention of brides, as well as to warn competitors. The cry of one male usually elicits a response from nearby relatives. During this period, the males often mark the boundaries of their territory, rubbing the trees with their chest.
The female brings in a year one litter from one, less often from two cubs. Pregnancy lasts 35 days. The cub at birth is extremely small - its weight is less than 0.5 kg. The newborn climbs into the bag, where it is securely attached to one of the two nipples. In a bag, a small koala spends about 6 months, where it grows and develops. For some time the mother carries him on his back.
From the age of seven months, the baby goes on to feed with a special gruel of semi-digested eucalyptus leaves, secreted by the mother's digestive system, getting used to the food of adult animals. The young koala becomes independent by 11 months of age, but usually continues to stay close to the mother for several months.
Conservation in nature
In nature, the koala has virtually no enemies, predators do not favor his meat, apparently due to the fact that it has a strong eucalyptus odor. Despite this, animals are often considered vulnerable. Although no one has officially recorded these marsupials, according to unofficial data, their number ranges from 40,000 to 1 million. Habitat destruction is the main threat to most koala populations in the northern part of the range. But much more serious is the situation in semi-desert areas of central Queensland, where about 400 thousand hectares are cleared for pastures and other agricultural needs annually. And while environmentalists are sounding the alarm and trying to stop the destruction of forests, this problem remains urgent for the rural areas of central Queensland.
Koalas are spread along the east coast of Australia. In addition, they live on islands off the coast of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
They inhabit both high eucalyptus forests and low forests inland as well as coastal trees on the island.
Koalas eat only leaves and bark from eucalyptus trees. There are over 600 species of these trees, but koalas eat only leaves and bark from 12 of them.
Eucalyptus leaves are extremely poisonous for most animals, but the koal digestive system neutralizes poison. Each koala eats about 350 to 600 grams (12-21 ounces) of leaves per day. They prefer young leaves that are more juicy and soft ..
Koals get over 90% of their fluid requirements from eucalyptus leaves. They only drink water when they are sick, or when there is not enough moisture in the leaves of the trees.
Koalas are mostly nocturnal. Approximately 20 hours a day, koalas sleep or rest in the trees, curled up. When they move, they can jump from tree to tree, as well as travel long distances along the ground.
Koalas walk and move slowly, but can run if they are in danger.
When traveling on land, they are vulnerable to attacks by predators such as dogs, foxes, and dingoes, and are also at risk of injury or death from automobiles.
Koalas are generally silent, but can produce a variety of sounds, including growling and grunting. Koals shout mainly during mating or danger. A frightened or wounded animal screams and “cries” in the voice of a small child.
A very large koala nose is one of the most important for her. After all, a highly developed sense of smell helps animals learn which leaves are safe for consumption.
Koalas have a very low metabolism, which saves energy and helps with the digestion of eucalyptus leaves. They eat at any time of the day, but usually cool in the night to save energy and moisture.
Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous for most animals and are not rich in nutrients. Therefore, koalas thoroughly chew the leaves before swallowing it. In the stomach of koalas there are bacteria that neutralizes toxins contained in eucalyptus oil.
Females of koalas reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 - 3 years. Males reach maturity later in 3 - 4 years. Mating occurs between December and March, which is summer time in the southern hemisphere. Mostly one baby is born in koalas. Baby koalas are very vulnerable at birth, they are naked and blind. Therefore, they will be in the mother's bag for about 6 months, feeding on milk. After 6 months in the bag, the cub begins to explore the world around it while riding on its mother’s back, feeding on milk and leaves. And only at the age of 12 months, baby koalas begin to live independently.
Once there were millions of koalas in Australia, but at the beginning of the 20th century, koala hunting almost led to their extinction. In the 1920s, nearly eight million animals died, mostly due to fur.
Koals need large areas of forest. But the number of forests decreases and animals must move more often on the ground, and therefore there is a higher risk that they will suffer from predators or humans.
The most common causes of koala death are dog attacks and traffic accidents. In recent years, some koala colonies have suffered greatly from the disease.
Many research programs have now been created to help protect koalas and their habitats.
What mainland does the koala inhabit?
Koala - an animal that is endemic to Australia. This is the original representative of the Koalov family. They live on eucalyptus trees. Koala is a marsupial animal belonging to the bipartisan order. Its range is mainland Australia, but only its eastern and southern parts.
Before the arrival of Europeans, animals were distributed in the north and west. Much later, koalas were settled by man on the territory of Kangaroo Island. Small animals, similar to teddy bears, cause universal sympathy. Almost all their life, these marsupial animals spend on the trees, deftly walking the branches. A koala can live on one tree for many days, and only after clearing its foliage does it change its “home”.
You won't get away on short legs on the ground, which is why sluggish koalas often die under the wheels of cars or become easy prey for wild dingo dogs. At night, animals devote food, while the rest of the time they sleep, comfortably seated at a fork in the branches. Sleep koalas are very sensitive and wake up at the slightest rustle. Prefer to live alone. Each adult animal has its own grounds, which it marks with secretions of odorous glands. Such a plot of a male sometimes coincides with the possessions of several females.
What does a koala look like?
These are small animals: their body size is from sixty to eighty centimeters, with a weight of from six to fifteen kilograms. The tail of the koalas is very small: it is almost invisible behind the lush fur. The animal has funny round ears, which are completely covered with fur.
It is impossible to describe what a koala looks like without mentioning the fur of these animals. It is soft and thick, quite durable. The color may be different, but most often gray shades prevail. Much less often it is possible to meet a small animal with bright red-red fur.
Koalas are very quiet animals: their voices can be heard only at certain periods, during breeding or when the enemy approaches. Frightened or wounded koalas make heart-rending sounds, resembling a crying baby.
We found out where the koala lives and what it looks like. It's time to tell how these animals live. Koals are animals leading a measured and unhurried lifestyle. Almost all day (from 18 to 22 hours) they sleep. Activity "teddy bears" manifest at night, which they lasts no more than two hours. As a rule, this is due to the need to find a food.
It's funny that in the so-called waking periods the koalas practically do not move: they just sit on the branches, holding the trunk with their forelimbs. In this case, the koala sometimes exhibits enviable grace and lightness, deftly jumping from one tree (where all the food is eaten) to another.
As scientists have found, such a leisurely lifestyle of koalas is not accidental. This is due to their diet. What do koalas eat? Why does nutrition affect their lifestyle so much? Knowing where koalas live, it’s easy to answer these questions. The diet of these animals includes only eucalyptus leaves and shoots, which almost do not contain proteins. In addition, eucalyptus leaves for the vast majority of animals are deadly. This is due to the content in them of a huge amount of phenolic compounds.
Interestingly, not all eucalypt trees are suitable for koalas. In addition, the animals are very selective in the choice of leaves: they are well aware of the presence of hydrocyanic acid, life-threatening. Moreover, animals are able to estimate its dose. In one night, an adult eats more than 500 g of young shoots and leaves. Special bacteria that develop in the intestines, help to cope with this volume of coarse vegetable feed.
It is thanks to a special medium that the leaves turn into nutritious mush and the proteins necessary for the body are produced. The processed food is stored in cheek pouches, and to speed up the digestion, the koala periodically swallows small pebbles and lumps of earth. Сидя на своеобразной диете из листьев, насыщенных эфирными маслами, коала постоянно находится в состоянии легкого опьянения, чем можно объяснить ее «заторможенность».
Еще один интересный факт: учитывая, что едят коалы, вполне естественно было бы предположить, что зверьки пьют много жидкости. Однако это не так: коалы практически не пьют воды, за исключением особо жарких месяцев. Animals are enough liquid, which they receive with vegetable food.
Due to the fact that most of the traditional habitats of these animals were destroyed, only scattered populations have survived today. About a hundred years ago, koalas were on the verge of extinction. The people who were attracted by the soft and expensive fur of these animals were to blame for this. In 1924 alone, over two million koalas were exported from Australia.
Today koalas are under special protection, their extermination is prohibited. Koal bred in zoos and reserves, restoring the number of populations.
The reduction in the number of animals is also explained by the low natural population growth. Almost 90% of females are infertile, and the rest breed slowly: they devote a lot of time to nursing a calf, which is usually the only one in the offspring. The mating season begins at the koalas in December and ends in March: these months in the southern hemisphere are the end of spring or the beginning of summer. During this period, the male dominant in a certain area mates with females that are ready for breeding.
Mating occurs at night, high up in a tree and lasts about half an hour. At this time, the partners bark, grumble loudly, scratch and bite. After performing the marriage sacrament, the couple breaks up, and from that moment the male forgets about the offspring. After about 35 days, a tiny cub is born, which is completely dependent on the mother. A blind and completely naked baby the size of a bean seed weighs no more than 3 grams. His hind limbs are not yet formed by the time of birth, and the forelegs with claws are already well developed.
Having come into the world, the baby crawls into the mother's bag along the path that the caring female licks in her fur, and the baby does not leave the bag for six months, firmly attached to the mother's nipple. In the first months, it feeds exclusively on mother's milk, but then the mother begins to feed the baby with a slurry of semi-digested leaves with feces.
Six months later, the cub comes out, climbs onto the back of the mother and so travels with it through the trees. Up to eight months, he periodically hides in a bag, but later simply stops to fit in it: you have to put your head into it in order to fortify your mother's milk. From the age of nine months, the matured animal switches to its own bread. The one-year-old female acquires her own plot, and the adult male suitor pulls out the young male during the next mating season.
Interesting facts about koalas
We answered the basic questions of people who are interested in these exotic animals: where the koala lives, how it looks, how its life is organized. And now we want to present you some interesting facts about these animals.
- From the language of the Australian aborigines, the name of the animal translates as "not to drink."
- Kohal fur smells of eucalyptus, which is quite natural, and musk. These sharp odors protect animals from fleas and other parasites.
- Subcutaneous glands produce a special substance that gives the hair a beautiful silver shine. Eucalyptus bears are very sensitive to solar radiation, and this substance is able to absorb rays, neutralizing their harmful effects.
Koal can not be seen in European zoos, as in temperate climates do not grow eucalyptus, and animals face starvation. Outside Australia, they can only be seen in the San Diego Zoo, where a eucalyptus forest was planted specifically for these animals.