Koalas: Mellow marsupials or delinquent bears? This Aussie icon has more than a few tall tales attached to its furry behind, but how much do we really know?
Here are 8 fascinating facts that will change the way you see these sleepy, tree-hugging excuses for a marsupial forever.
1. Double thumbs up
Koalas, as it turns out are “all fingers and thumbs” – with two opposable thumbs on each front paw for climbing, holding onto trees and gripping food, while the second and third digits on their hind paws are fused together to form a grooming claw. Imagine the multitasking you could get done with those extra digits!
2. Death from above
There has been increased speculation about a possible second species of koala in Queensland. Upon investigation it was discovered to be a case of mistaken identity, between the koala and its distant cousin the drop bear.
As most locals are aware, koalas vary slightly in fur colour and size depending on the climate they inhabit, while drop bears are much larger, carnivorous bears with orange fur.
3. Koality snoozer
The koala is considered an Aussie icon for many reasons, but the most likely reason is its ability to enjoy an 18-22 hour kip after a marginally nutritious meal to preserve energy for more important activities like watching sport.
4. Crime scene culprit
They may appear cute and cuddly but underneath all that fluff koalas are really miscreant marsupials. With their unique human-like fingerprints, they have been the suspected culprits of many unsolved breaking and entering cases. Initial investigations have led police to arrest some suspects, with most being released on warnings.
5. Bear factor
Rats that grow to human heights, jumping metres at a time with a single bound, a strange aquatic mixed-breed of duck and beaver and small ash grey, pouched bears (phascolarctos cinereus) living in trees. These were the first descriptions of what we now know to be the kangaroo, the duck billed platypus and the koala, but don’t go calling them rats or bears or you’ll have to go a round with skippy…
6. Take it or leave it
With a choice buffet of 600+ available species of eucalyptus trees, you’d think koalas would have no trouble keeping a good variety in their diet, but most seem to have a strong preference for only 50 species of gum leaves – talk about fussy eaters!
7. Swimming against the mainstream
The word koala actually comes from the Aboriginal word for ‘no drink’ as they get most of the water in their diet from the leaves of eucalyptus trees. However, koalas have been known to take a sneaky dip in backyard pools and local creeks to cool off over summer or to escape the floods. Don’t believe us? Check out the video below…
8. Tree territory
Not only are koalas fussy eaters, they’re also fussy about who gets to live in their neck of the woods. In every forest there is a carrying capacity for the number of koalas that can feed on the available gum trees. It seems even in the animal world it’s all about location, location, location!