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  • With fluffy ears, round heads, and spoon-shaped noses, koalas are known for their lovable faces.

  • But these sleepy, Australian tree dwellers are full of surprises.

  • Koalas are not bears, they're marsupials.

  • Often mislabeled koala bears because of their teddy bear-like appearance, koalas are marsupials: mammals that give birth to undeveloped young.

  • Like most marsupials, mother koalas have pouches, where baby koalas, or joeys, drink their mother's milk and continue to develop for around six months.

  • But unlike most other marsupials, koala pouches open toward the bottom.

  • This allows joeys to access and consume a substance their mother secretes, which aids in the baby koala's digestion.

  • Koalas have six opposable thumbs.

  • With sharp pointed claws and rough pads, koala hands and feet are uniquely designed to grip branches.

  • Their front paws have five digits.

  • Two digits oppose the other three like a pair of thumbs.

  • Their back paws each have one large clawless opposable digit, which allows them to grasp branches with their feet, freeing their hands to forage.

  • Koala feet also have built-in combs.

  • The second and third toes are fused together and are used for grooming their wooly fur.

  • Koalas eat leaves that are poisonous to many animals.

  • The koala diet consists almost entirely of eucalyptus leaves.

  • Of the roughly 650 species of eucalypt trees in Australia, koalas prefer only about 30 of them.

  • The leathery leaves are very high in fiber and contain chemicals toxic to other animals.

  • To process this specialized diet, koalas have a closed-ended digestive organ called a caecum, which helps digest the leaf fibers via fermentation.

  • Koalas sleep up to 22 hours per day.

  • Because of their low nutrition diets and sluggish metabolism, koalas must conserve their energy.

  • Koalas spend about 10% of their day eating and around 90% of their time sleeping.

  • To accommodate so much time spent sleeping in tree branches, koalas have curved spines and tail-less rears padded with cartilage and extra thick fur.

  • Koala habitat is quickly disappearing.

  • Koalas only live in eastern and southeastern Australia, and once numbered in the millions.

  • Now, wild koala population estimates vary from 43,000 to around 350,000.

  • Vast tree clearing due to urbanization, along with droughts and forest fires, have drastically reduced koala habitats since the early 1900s.

  • These stressors have made koalas vulnerable to diseases, as well as dog attacks and vehicle strikes.

  • Australia's conservation plans include designating and protecting koala habitat, and funding koala hospitals and disease research.

  • These combined efforts are critical to protect the beloved koala from extinction.

With fluffy ears, round heads, and spoon-shaped noses, koalas are known for their lovable faces.

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Koalas 101 | Nat Geo Wild

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    Nina posted on 2019/09/19
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