Koala Bears

Koala Bears

The Koala bear is a marsupial that gets its name from the aboriginal word meaning ‘no drink’. This curious word denotes how the Koala bear gets its water supply – from the eucalyptus leaves. It drinks water only when ill or when water supply from the leaves is not enough. The Koala bear is often mistakenly believed to be related to the bear. Its hairy body, small ears and almost non-existent tail does justify this assumption. But though it looks like a bear, it is a slow small marsupial that dwells in trees.

Once upon a time, there were different kinds of Koala. Today, all but one of them has died away. Koala bears live in bushland and are mostly found in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Just like humans, Koala bears live in societies and need to be in contact with other Koala. They are highly territorial and individual Koala even maintain their own ‘home’ areas. This is one of the reasons why the Koala bears favor Eucalyptus trees because Eucalyptus forests have enough trees to support a healthy population of Koala and support the expanding needs of growing males. A Koala can tell when a tree belongs to another bear and will need his own tree. The Koala is well suited for a life in the tree. It has an excellent sense of balance, strong limbs and a firm grip. The rough pads on the soles and palms allow the Koala bears to allow them to grip the trees firmly. Their paws have a thumb-like finger that allows them to grip well.

Koala bears appear only in such habitats as are convenient for them. They are also very fussy and picky about food, as they will eat only those gum leaves that suit their tastes. From among the 600 varieties of Eucalyptus trees found in Australia, Koala usually leave most species alone. Only one or two species are favored by the bears. To aid them, the Koala bears have an excellent sense of smell.

By nature a diet of Eucalyptus is highly poisonous to most animals. But Nature has equipped the Koala bears with special adaptations to handle this kind of a diet. They have a digestive system that allows them to detoxify the poison. Koala bears have a very slow metabolic rate and this allows them to sleep for 15-18 hours a day. This also allows them to keep food longer in the stomach and thus the Koala bears retain the last bit of energy from the food they intake. The Koala bears have teeth that are adapted to bite the 300-500 pounds of leaves they eat per day. A gap between the teeth allows the bear to move the food around in its mouth.

Koala bears have a thick and hairy fur that protects them from extreme temperatures. The hair has a fine coat of oil that helps to repel water when it rains. The bottom of the Koala body is densely cushioned by a thick coat of hair that protects its body from the hard branches and barks it sits on. The Koala are nocturnal animals so most of their foraging activities take place after dark. This is so that they lose the minimum amount of moisture.

Being a marsupial, Koala bears give birth to which are then held safely in a pouch. The Joey (or the young one) slides into the pouch by itself, and then latches on to one of the teats which swells to fill its mouth, thus holding it safely in the pouch. The young one develops eyes, hair and limbs inside the pouch. Eventually the young one comes out and rides on its mothers back before it is ready to face the world alone.

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