Koala Facts
Size 23-34 in (60-85 cm)
Speed Up to 18 mph (30 km/h)
Weight 8.8-33 lb (4-15 kg)
Lifespan 13-18 years
Food Eucalyptus leaves
Predators Birds of prey, dingos
Habitat Australia
Order Diprotodontia
Family Phascolarctidae
Scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus
Characteristics Exclusively feeds on eucalyptus leaves

Koalas are nocturnal marsupials living in the eucalyptus trees of Australia. Together with the kangaroos they are Australia’s best known animal species.

What Do Koalas Eat?

Koalas fill their belly with 200-600 g of eucalyptus leaves every day. The little teddy bears would not accept anything else on their plate. Yet, they are still rather picky. The animals only like 30 out of 300 different sorts of eucalyptus. Some eucalyptus leaves are poisonous during springtime.

Fortunately, koalas have a good sense of smell. After a short sniffing test they can tell which leaves are “good” and which are “bad”. They sniff very carefully and if they leaves are found to be ok, they are eaten. Koalas also prefer older leaves because they are less poisonous. They sometimes eat a bit of dirt, which helps them to digest the leaves. By the way: Did you know that koalas smell like eucalyptus sweets?

What Does the Name "Koala" Mean?

Koala is a word from the language of the Australian aborigines and means "doesn’t drink”. 

Koalas Drink Water – but Only When It Rains

Until now, it was assumed that koalas exclusively take up the water contained in the eucalyptus leaves. But this is not true. In 2020, researchers observed them drinking water on a regular basis - when it rains. They lick the rain drops running down the trees trunks.

Koala Koala - Photo: worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock

Koalas Have Two Opposing Thumbs

Koalas spend most of their time in trees. They have two opposing thumbs on each hand, because they need to have a firm grip while climbing. On the ground they are not quite as skilled in moving around but when they have to escape from a predator, they can "gallop" really fast: up to 18 mph (30 km/h)!

Koalas Are Sleepyheads

Koalas sleep about 14 hours every day. Yet, this does not seem to be enough. They spend additional 4-5 hours relaxing, as they are mostly tired from foraging food for 4-5 hours.

Can Koalas Swim?

No, they would drown.

Koalas Use Their Claws as a Hand Comb

Koalas do not lick their fur as cats do, but use their claws as a comb to remove dirt and loose hair. Now, that's practical!

Are Koalas a Threatened Species?

Yes, Koalas are considered an "endangered species". Their habitat is getting smaller as more and more forest is cleared to build houses and roads. Many koalas are also run over on roads.

Koalas Can Be Stressed Out

Koalas wiggle their ears when feeling stressed. Sometimes they even develop a nervous hiccup. Stress also has a negative impact on the weak immune system (the body’s defences) of the koalas.

Koala Koala - Photo: robert cicchetti/Shutterstock


It takes 35 days until a koala baby is born. At the time of its birth it measures only about 0.78 inch (2 cm) and is rather helpless. It does not have a coat and cannot use its eyes yet. Instead of exploring the world, it crawls into its mother’s pouch directly after its birth. After 22 weeks it opens its eyes and leaves the pouch after about 6 months.

Little Rider

Once the koala baby is strong enough to climb out of the pouch, this does not mean that the sweet life is coming to an end. Now the little koala can explore the world on its mother’s back for another 6 months.

Koala Koala - Photo: Andywak/Shutterstock

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