The koala is a marsupial, a pouched mammal. It only lives in the eucalyptus forests of the east-coast of Australia, it eats a small number of preferred eucalyptus leaves. A female koala has a rounder shaped head and her ears are more tufted, the male has a fairly flat head with a larger nose and smaller ears. Koalas have a harsh call sounding a bit like wood being cut by a saw.
They can live up to 18 years in captivity and 13 years in the wild. They breed in summer at night, having one young at a time, after pregnancy of 34-36 days. At birth a koala is only about 2cm long and weighs less than one gram. The baby stays in the mother's pouch for up to 6 months and feeds on partly digested leaf pulp that has already passed through the mother's body. This processed food is easy to digest for the young. When they are ready to leave the pouch they climb onto their mother's back and stay there up to 4 to 5 months.
Koalas are grey to reddish-brown with a white chin, chest and under forearms. Koalas spend most of their life in the trees, sleeping up to 18 hours a day and spending the rest of the time eating. An adult koala weighs up to 9kg consuming up to 1kg of leaves a day. The males grow to a height of 85cm and females 75cm.
The koala is a protected species. In 1924, koalas made an easy target for hunters and more than 2 million were slaughtered for their fur. Today koalas still have survival problems because much of their homeland is being destroyed and disease threatens them. 'Koala' is an Aboriginal word meaning 'no water' because koalas obtain most of fluid from eating leaves. Koalas are also very good swimmers.
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