Our Sydney koalas are disappearing over time as habitat is becoming destroyed.
Meaning of Koala
The word koala comes from the Australian aboriginal languages and means no water. This is because they very rarely drink water. Instead, they live off the moisture from the green eucalyptus leaves that make up their diet. The scientific name for the animal, phascolarctos cinereus comes from the Greek phascolarctos meaning leather pouch and bear and cinereus ashen grey in colour.
However, the koala is not a bear at all. Instead it is a marsupial with a backward opening pouch and a butt consisting almost entirely of cartilage, similar to its closest cousin the wombat.
Though our koalas are painted to be cute and cuddly, wild ones are nothing of the sort. Their fuzzy looking hair is more like the coarse wool of a sheep. They have two opposing thumbs on their hands, and both their feet and hands have rough pads and serious claws to grab onto branches.
In addition, they have two toes, fused together, on their feet, which they use to comb their fur. They can also run at up to 30 km per hour. There are numerous stories of people who have tried to pick them up only to end up with severe lacerations.
The eucalyptus leaves are high in fibre and low in nutrition and are toxic to most creatures. Our koala has a long appendix filled with bacteria that allow the animal to digest the leaves.
They are not born with this bacteria in their system and need to acquire it from their mother when they are young. The mother passes on this bacteria by excreting a sticky runny faecal substance called ‘pap’, which the young ingests instinctively, providing it with the bacteria it needs to eat the leaves in adult life.
However, digesting the poor in nutrition toxic diet means that they need to sleep up to 22 hours per day. This arboreal mammal is able to sit in the trees for long periods because its backside is primarily cartilage just like its cousin the wombat.
Sydney Wild Koala Tours
Whilst there are koalas in and around our city’s suburbs, the populations are very small and finding them is next to impossible. Furthermore, once and if found, they appear as a small well camouflaged ball high in the eucalyptus trees. This makes people’s fantasies about finding and getting close to a wild koala in or near Sydney very difficult.
There are, however, some excellent places in other parts of Australia where it is possible to see them. These include: Magnetic Island, Kangaroo Island and The Great Ocean Road.
That being said we are constantly looking at colonies that come onto our radar to see if we can organise spotting tours with at least a 90% chance of seeing a koala in the wild.
Please check out our other Sydney Wildlife tours.
Sydney Koalas in Captivity
We understand seeing animals in captivity is not the same as seeing them in the wild. However, for those desperate to see a koala up close, below are some resources where it is possible to see koalas in captivity.
Taronga Zoo Sydney
Featherdale Wildlife Park
Western Sydney Zoo
+ What is a group of koalas called?
As koalas are fairly solitary animals they don’t generally live in groups. However, a group of koalas (based on the location they live in) is normally called a colony or a population of koalas.
+ Where do koalas live?
They live in open eucalyptus forests in the Eastern part of Australia.
+ Are koalas endangered?
They are listed as endangered and it is thought that there are less than 80,000 in the wild. Unlike many other animals, koalas are not in many zoos outside of Australia due to their strict diet of eucalyptus leaves and the expense in creating a eucalyptus forest just to feed them. There are only a few zoos in Japan, Europe and USA where koalas can be found.
+ Is it true that koalas have chlamydia?
Yes. In some areas up to 90% of the koala population in Australia are infected with Chlamydia.
+ Are koalas friendly?
Just like other wild animals, prefer no contact with human beings.
+ What does a koala eat?
Koalas are strict herbivores. Not only that, they do not eat fruit. In fact they eat only from a few kinds of eucalyptus trees.
+ Are koalas aggressive?
Koalas are normally quite relaxed. However, threats to their territory, their safety or their young triggers an aggressive response. They can pact a punch for their small size. They have extremely strong claws built for climbing trees supplemented with extremely strong arms and strong teeth. Many reports of people trying to help one to safety have ended in bites and scratches because people thought they were cute and cuddly rather than wild animals.
+ How many hours does a koala sleep?
Because of the poor nutrition and toxins in their diet, they sleep up to 22 hours a day and generally eat the rest of the time.
+ Are koalas the dumbest animal?
They have the smallest brains of any known mammals and receive something similar to a ‘high’ on the oils from the eucalyptus leaves. These frisky furry friends spread sexual transmitted diseases including chlamydia. They also sleep up to 22 hours a day to process the toxins in their diet.
+ Why are koalas only in Australia?
Koalas are found only in Australia as they only eat about 15 species of eucalyptus leaves only found in Australia.
+ Do koalas have 2 thumbs?
Like humans, koalas have opposable thumbs. In fact, koalas have two of them on each hand! This makes it easier to grip the trees when climbing.
+ Does a koala have 5 fingers?
Yes. Koalas have three fingers and two thumbs on each paw. On the lower paws, the two thumbs are fused together and are also used for grooming.
+ What happens if koalas don’t eat eucalyptus?
They die. They require their specialist diet of eucalyptus leaves and have a specially designed stomach to process the toxins of the eucalyptus leaves. Only two other animals: the greater glider and the ringtail possum can eat eucalyptus leaves.
+ Do koalas eat poop?
Yes. A baby koala eats the runny substance that follows their mother’s poop called pap. This allows their intestine to grow the bacteria required to break down the toxins in the eucalyptus leaves that they eat.
+ Do koalas need to drink?
Generally the answer is no. In fact the word koala means “no water”. Koalas don’t normally need to drink as they get all the moisture they need from the gum leaves. However, they do drink when necessary, such as in times of drought when the leaves may not contain sufficient moisture.
+ Can I cuddle or pat a koala?
In NSW, it is illegal to hold a koala without a special license. Some other states do offer the opportunity to do so. There are a few places where you can pat a koala. These are namely,
Featherdale Wildlife Park
Western Sydney Zoo
Please note that pricing and experience varies considerably.
+ Can I go on a wild koala tour in Sydney?
At present we do not offer a koala tour. As it is extremely difficult to find them in the wild and when we do, they are a small well camouflaged spot high in the trees.