The Diet and Behavior of Koalas

Koalas are, as most of us know, a marsupial and are native to Australia. They range from Central Queensland through New South Wales and Victoria and into South Australia. Their habitat varies from sub tropical forest to the temperate woodlands of southern Australia.

For a koala to survive however, eucalyptus trees are essential. There are over 600 species of eucalyptus trees in Australia and the koala only eats a very few of those. Koalas living in Queensland may eat a different species of tree to those in South Australia, but koalas from each area will only select one or two species. Predominantly eucalyptus feeders, koalas will sometimes eat other plants and have reportedly been seen eating wattle leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves are not very nutritious at all and are poisonous to most animals. So for the koala to obtain enough nutrients from the leaves, he needs to eat plenty of them. A koala may consume up to about 500 grams of leaves a day. Drinking is not necessary as all the moisture the koala needs comes from the leaves. (Koala is an aboriginal word meaning “no drink”).

As for behavior, koalas are very sociable animals. They live in groups and have certain favorite trees and groups of trees that they will continually revisit. Being territorial, each tree or group of trees is defended aggressively from outsiders. Territory is marked by scent.

They are nocturnal and spend most of their time in the trees. At night, they will descend from the trees and move across the ground to another tree or area. They sleep for about 20 hrs a day and spend the 4 hrs they are awake eating.

Male koalas make a grunting sound when showing signs of aggression and similar, but softer, sounds are used to communicate among group members. They are particularly noisy during the breeding season which is during the warmer months of the year. (October – March).

Koalas numbers have decreased significantly over the years, mainly due to the loss of their habitat. However, with increased awareness, steps are in place to ensure the future of the koala and there are now many sanctuaries and areas preserved for them alone.