The koala or, more accurately, koala tree is an arborescent marsupial indigenous to Australia. It is by far the only surviving representative of the genus Phascolarctidae, its nearest living relatives being the wombats, that are members of the same family Vombatidae. Koala can be distinguished from other related species of marsupials by their prominent arched tail, long thick fur and three inch molars. Koala stands at about two feet tall and is almost two feet long including tail. A well-developed koala may weigh in excess of twenty pounds.
Koalas are phalangers (order phalariosida) with a range of color variation that includes white, grey, brown, black and tawny. These changes in color occur as a result of differing quantities and proportions of melanin, or pigmentation in fur, that are found in different parts of Koalas’ bodies. As a result of these differing amounts and proportions of melanin in their fur, each Koala has various colors of fur. As with most other animals, the color of Koalas’ fur does not affect the ability of the animal to survive, although it is known to have some effect on mating and reproduction. Since Koalas are semi-arboreal creatures, most of them spend part of their lives on the ground, at least once or twice a year. Their paws allow them to move quite rapidly on the ground, so they usually maintain a smallish weight even in their adult life.
All the living Koalas eat an oily substance called eucalyptus, which is found in trees throughout Australia except for the Hunter River area where it is not naturally available. While living in eucalyptus forests, koalas groom themselves using this secretion and excretion method. This is the reason that young koalas are green and have pale fur. This grooming process of the koala also creates a sort of natural fertilizer for the tree bark and leaves.
While koalas generally eat an oily substance called eucalyptus, this substance is poisonous to humans. For this reason, koalas are prohibited from being hunted in most countries including Australia and New Zealand, as well as most U.S. states. However, some Koalas do choose to consume certain other things, especially if they are raised on a farm, because of their lack of predators. Many farmers feed koalas wheat and oats.
Koalas tend to live in burrows, under rocks and logs during the winter months. They dig shallow holes in the earth, place some food and water inside, cover the hole with dirt and return to the outer, wild environment. These burrows may be as small as a meter cubed and can easily be filled with soil, mosses and branches. Koalas generally spend the winter months buried under the earth, but will dig a new burrow in the spring to resume their hibernation. Koalas usually only come out of their burrows to eat and drink at dusk.
When a Koala moves about, it uses its front legs to push itself along. When it comes to moving about and climbing, it uses its two claws and feet. Koalas have relatively weak eyesight, so it is essential that a hunter preserve as much vision as possible, by shooting through the eye with a specially designed compound bow, or using a bright orange-red glow from a light mounted on the back of a Koala’s paws. Even though Koalas are formidable predators, they are careful about entering protected areas and prefer to avoid conflict when possible.