Koala is the common name for the arboreal marsupial which resembles the appearance of a teddy bear with very quiet habits, similar to those of a sloth. It is a really beautiful and friendly animal. But are koalas endangered?
Characteristics of koalas
Koalas can have a body length of up to 76 cm. The body is plump, covered with thick fur, soft and gray. Its head is large and round, and it has a pair of round and hairy ears.
The front extremities are short, with big feet and five fingers. Two of these are opposed to the other three, each of them having a strong and big claw.
These features turn the koala into the perfect animal for arboreal life. These muscular animals are great climbers. In fact, it is easily seen in eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia which are their only habitat, as well as their food source, because this animal only eats the leaves and fruits of these trees. Koalas that live in milder climates are usually larger and have darker and thicker fur than those living in warmer climates.
The average weight of these animals is 12 kg in males and 8 kg in females. The dry Queensland Koalas are often smaller, with an average weight of 8 kg for the males and 6 kg for the females.
In Victoria (Australia), an adult male can weigh up to 14 kg, and a female up to 11 Kg
Females are identified by their bag or pouch. In addition, they are usually nicer, which is due to their particular features and smaller stature. Adult males can be twice as large as adult females and, in addition to the curvature of the nose which is more pronounced, the shape of their head is different from that of females.
They are nocturnal animals, for which they need their very good hearing abilities. Their vision is very poor. Their nose is extremely sensitive, giving them all the information they need for survival, tracing their territory and mating.
The populations of koalas only proliferate if they are provided with the right habitat. This includes their favorite food like the eucalyptus trees that should grow in a suitable environment and need sufficient rainfall. There should also be other koalas living in the vicinity. The suitability of a habitat depends mainly on the consistency of trees, tree density, rainfall, climate, terrain, and space availability.
Koalas live above the trees, where they carry out most of their evening activities. They sleep around 20 hours a day in order not to spend energy. Their natural predators are dingoes, owls, eagles, vultures and pythons. They are also menaced by drought and fires.
Koalas are really picky about their food. They only eat eucalyptus leaves as well as the skin of certain fruits. There are about 600 species of eucalyptus in Australia but koalas only eat about 120. Even certain areas koalas only eat four or six species. Adult koalas need between 200 and 400 grams of leaves per day and sometimes up to 1kg.
Koalas reach sexual maturity at two years. However, mating normally begins to take place between one or two years later. Generally, females are ready earlier than the males, as older dominant males keep away youngsters. It is unclear whether it is the males who go in search of females or the opposite occurs. Possibly this depends on the animal's status in the social hierarchy. Dominant males must maintain their position against other males to control their females. However, it has also been the case that females look for a dominant male.
The decline of the species and their risk of extinction
The Australian Koala Foundation asked the government in a document to declare koalas as a threatened species after investigating 1,000 of their habitats and discovering that 60 percent of them were destroyed and in 30 percent of them there are no more koalas. Koalas are protected by law, but the eucalyptus trees they live in and that represent their only source of food are not.
In 1788, when Australia was colonized, there were between seven and ten million koalas while now there are only 100,000 left. In the 1920s three million koalas were hunted for their fur.
The main problem that these animals face is that most of the 20 million Australians live on the east coast of Australia, which is also the home to most of the population of koalas. Southeast Queensland is experiencing the fastest human population growth of Australia. Studies show that koalas could be extinct in 15 years because of increasing urbanization and the destruction of 80 percent of the forests of the east coast. An eucalyptus forest can only support a certain number of koalas, so overpopulated areas or destroyed habitats cause them to starve and to decline in number. Wild koalas only exist in four of the six states in Australia: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The marsupial has no natural predators, but for decades its population has been declining due to urban spread, car accidents and dog attacks. More than 4,000 koalas are killed each year because they are run over or attacked by dogs.
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