8 Things You Might Not Know About Koalas
HUGGING THE PLANET
You may know koalas for their cute, fuzzy ears and their status as one of Australia’s favorite animals. But, koalas have a lot more to them! It’s time we learned all that we can about the koala, as their habitats are currently under threat. From sleeping to eating to needing to see the dentist, we’ve got all the facts on the cuddly koala. Keep reading to find out their top 8 koala-fications!
1. Koalas can sleep up to 20 hours per day! #goals
The life of a koala sounds pretty great! Sleeping for most of the day is something we can get behind. While koalas sound like they are the ultimate animal for #notdoingthings, their bodies are actually working pretty hard while they are asleep. It is hard work to digest and absorb nutrients from the tough and dense eucalyptus leaves, so sometimes their little bodies can’t do much else except digest their dinner! Koalas also tend to be mostly nocturnal, so you’re not likely to spot them doing a whole lot during the day, as they will likely be spending most of the daytime sound asleep in their favorite tree. Hmm, it kind of sounds like the Tree Napper was made with the koala in mind!
2. Koalas can eat 2 pounds of eucalyptus per day
Eucalyptus is the primary source of food and energy for koalas. Occasionally, a koala will snack on the leaves of another native Australian gum tree, but the majority of the time they are headed for their favorite eucalyptus tree. However, eucalyptus is not an easy thing to base your diet on! The leaves are low in nutrition and actually have some compounds that are toxic to other animals. Koalas have some special mechanisms to combat these downfalls. First, their slow metabolism means that the leaves can sit in their stomach for up to 8 hours, extracting energy and making the toxicity less potent. Koalas also have a pouch called a cecum in their digestive tract. Humans have one as well, but the cecum of the koala is extra-long and contains bacteria by the millions to help break down and absorb as much nutrition and fiber as they can from the eucalyptus. While the leaves of the eucalyptus tree are toxic for us to eat, we do love diffusing eucalyptus oil for a calming and soothing mood! We’re sure the koalas would love it, too.
3. Koala bears aren’t technically bears
While calling the koala a “koala bear” is commonplace, they are technically marsupials. This is because mama koalas carry their young in the front pouch on the stomach. Their babies are called ‘joeys’, and they live in the pouch for up to 6 months. After their 6 month birthday, joeys will ride on the mom’s back and still hang out in the cozy pouch for sleeping and eating (who wouldn’t??). For the joey’s first solid food around 6 months of age, he will receive eucalyptus that has already been digested by the mom and excreted in the cecum, which is called pap. While this doesn’t sound too tasty for us humans, baby joeys love to consume pap until their teeth come in a couple of months later.
4. Koalas can give you two-thumbs-up on each paw!
So, technically they aren’t thumbs, but koalas do have two opposable digits, on each paw! Humans owe a lot of our development over the years to the fact that we have opposable thumbs. Koalas use their special joints to hold on to trees and place a tight grip on their eucalyptus leaves while they munch. Their similarity to human handprints has created some confusion with the Australian police, as koalas’ pawprints have added to the “evidence” at more than one crime scene!
5. The name koala comes from an Aboriginal term meaning
The native people of Australia, the Aboriginals, are thought to have named the koala after the fact they very rarely drink water. Before thinking that koalas are perma-dehydrated, know that they get all the water they need from their 2 pounds of eucalyptus per day. They also don’t need too much water, as they are sleeping for most of their lives and tend to stay within the same cluster of trees. This low energy output means less need for hydration. Intriguingly, koalas put a preference in the summertime towards eucalyptus leaves with a higher water content than they do in the winter, as their bodies need to extract more water in the hotter months. Although slow-moving, koalas show their smarts, too!
6. Koalas might need to see a dentist
Although they seem to love their eucalyptus, the tough leaves are quite hard on their teeth. Over time, koalas’ teeth become decayed from the abrasive nature of the leaves. It tends to be the oldest koalas that have the worst tooth decay, as they have been chewing on eucalyptus for their entire lives (which tends to be 13 to 18 years, by the way).
7. Koalas are pretty independent
After the baby joeys move on from living on their mom’s pouch and back, koalas tend not to socialize too much. Although they tend to live very close to each other in tree clusters, most koalas stick to themselves. Some researchers think this is to save even more energy for digesting eucalyptus. On a typical day, koalas will socialize with their buddies for about 15 minutes per day.
8. We can all help to save the vulnerable koala population
Although not endangered, koala populations are declining due to many environmental reasons. Deforestation to build human homes, fires, and car accidents are the main killers of our koalas. Due to this threat on their habitats, the Australia Koala Foundation estimates that there may be as few as 43,000 koalas left in the world. While you’ve likely seen koalas at the zoo, they only naturally exist in four states of eastern Australia. Want to help save these cute creatures? Head here to adopt a koala! If you’re living in Australia, it’s recommended to watch for koalas on the road while driving and plant eucalyptus trees to help replace the ones being destroyed. Not only do koalas need eucalyptus to eat, but it’s also where they live! Being more environmentally conscious is also a good way to help the koalas (and all vulnerable species!). Everyone can play a small role in saving our favorite marsupial.
You may be wondering, why the interest in koalas? Well, we’ve adopted the koala as Bearaby’s cuddly and sleepy mascot. All of their snoozing and lazing about makes them the perfect model for our cozy weighted blankets. We can only imagine how cute a koala would look in our Tree Napper...
Did you know?
Full grown southern Koalas’ weight spans the full range of Bearaby (and most other) weighted blankets, ranging from 15 to 29lbs. Coincidence?