Koala

Although often described as a bear, the koala is actually a marsupial, like a kangaroo. Its fur has an odour reminiscent of cough sweets.

One of the most instantly recognizable animals in the world, the koala is one of only three mammals capable of eating eucalypt leaves, which are toxic to most species. Their sharp incisor teeth allow them to nip off the leaves, which are ground up by the cheek teeth behind. The reproductive system of both male and female is unusual. Males have a penis that is split into two branches, and females are the only mammal to have two vaginas.

Distribution: Found in Australia, from the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in the north down through New South Wales to Victoria and South Australia, including offshore islands.

Weight: 5 - 14 kg (11 - 3 lib); males are bigger.

Length: 95 cm (37 in).

Maturity: Females 2-3 years; males 3 - 4 years.

Gestation Period: 34 - 36 days; newborn koalas measure 2 cm (0.8 in) and weigh under 1 g (0.03 oz).

Breeding: 1; young spend about 215 days in the pouch.

Food: Eucalypt leaves, which create its distinctive body odour.

Lifespan: 12 years.

Nose

The black nose is prominent, with downward-facing nostrils.

Offspring

After leaving the pouch, a young koala will be carried on its mother's back.

Size

Those koalas living further south, where the weather is cooler, are largest in size.

Forefeet

The presence of opposable thumbs makes it easier for koalas to climb and grip on to branches.

Holding on

The inverted thumbs on the hind feet help the koala to maintain its grip while it feeds using its forelegs.

SAFE IN THE TREETOPS

Although they are not active by nature, koalas are adept at moving from branch to branch without falling to the ground.

Twin births are rare, although there are two nipples in the female koala's pouch.

Gallery of Koala