12 Sept 2022


Take action now to prevent the extinction of our unique Australian animals, like koalas, eastern quolls, and green sea turtles. Your tax-deductible donation can help restore their habitats, protect them from predators and ensure their survival in the face of climate change.

Surely koalas are one of Australia’s most famous animals. It’s not hard to see why because  these aww-inducing marsupials can make even the coldest hearts melt in a moment. Not only that, but as a native Aussie, they’re one of the world’s most special creatures.

While koalas are popular worldwide and are the face of many Aussie tourist souvenirs, there are some really basic facts that people might not know about this iconic mammal – like this year they were uplisted to endangered in QLD, NSW and the ACT.

Here are 10 interesting facts about koalas:

1. Koalas aren’t bears – they’re marsupials!

You might hear the term ‘koala bear’ being tossed around when it comes to these fluffy animals. While they might look bear-like with their round ears and big black nose, they actually share more characteristics with other marsupials like the wombat.

2. Baby koalas are too cute (this is indeed, a fact).

Cute koala baby Petal and mother Blossom climbing eucalyptus tree in Campbelltown= NSW
© WWF-Aus / Alex Weinress

Called ‘joeys’, baby koalas develop in their mother’s pouch for about six months. After this time, they’ll ride on their mum’s back for another six months, only using the pouch to feed and sleep.

3. Koalas can be found in southeastern and eastern Australia

While koalas are a national symbol of Australia’s unique wildlife, they can only be found in the wild on the southeast and eastern sides of Australia, along the coastlines of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. They live high up in eucalyptus trees of native bushlands and forests, usually perched between the forks of the tree’s branches.

4. They have a very supportive  butt…

Living in trees and being wedged between rough branches requires a lot of support! Luckily, the koala has strong cartilage at the end of their curved spine, allowing them to make eucalyptus trees a comfortable home!

5. They’re fussy eaters!

Koala joey (Phascolarctos cinereus) and mom eating Eucalyptus leaf
© Shutterstock / dangdumrong / WWF

Koalas survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves and can eat up to a kilogram a day! Pretty impressive, considering eucalyptus is poisonous to most animals.Their special fibre digesting organ, called a caecum, helps to detoxify the chemicals in the leaves.

However, they can be quite picky eaters, eating less than 50 of 800 eucalypt species. Even then, they’ll often choose leaves at the top of the tallest trees that contain more liquid and nutrients – only the best for Australia’s koalas!

6. ‘Koala’ is thought to mean ‘no drink’ in the Australian Aboriginal language

It was thought that koalas didn’t need to drink because of the moisture they get from munching on juicy eucalyptus leaves all day. However, they do drink from various water sources when needed, especially during heatwaves and in times of drought.

7. Koalas can sleep up to 18 hours a day

Sleeping koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) on eucalyptus tree
© Shutterstock / martinho Smart / WWF

Despite the rumours, koalas don’t ‘get high’ or ‘drugged out’ on eucalyptus leaves. It’s because the leaves are so low in nutrients that koalas need more sleep than most animals which basically helps them conserve energy.

8. Koala Chlamydia is a serious disease

But it’s not the same strain of Chlamydia that affects humans. Many koala populations are vulnerable to Chlamydia and it usually manifests when they’re in stressful situations. The disease can cause blindness and reproductive tract infections.

9. Koalas are losing their homes to excessive tree-clearing

Koala mother and joey seeking refuge on a bulldozed logpile
Koala mother and joey seeking refuge on a bulldozed logpile (Homepage) © Briano / WWF-Aus

Many koala populations are faced with nowhere to go when their forest habitat is destroyed by deforestation. Just in the last two years, tree-clearing has tripled in New South Wales, leaving important koala habitats incredibly fragmented or completely lost. 

With their trees gone, koalas are spending more time on the ground in search of food and shelter. Sadly, this is when they’re most vulnerable to being hit by vehicles, attacked by dogs and falling ill to stress-induced diseases like chlamydia. As a result of all these growing pressures, koalas are now endangered in NSW, as well as QLD and the ACT.

10. Sadly, koala numbers are on the decline

Sadly, koala numbers are on the decline. Their numbers have been falling further and further every year due to deforestation and disease.  In early 2022, koalas were officially uplisted to endangered in QLD, NSW and the ACT.  Many struggling Australian species, like our koalas, are being pushed even further towards the brink of extinction, and we need to take action now to prevent losing them forever.

Curious what other threatened animals could be living in your backyard?

Explore WWF-Australia’s ‘My Backyard’ tool to learn what wildlife makes their home near you and how well they're being cared for.

Here’s more you can do to help koalas: