KOALA

The koala is one of the world’s most iconic animal species – right up there with the panda, tiger, elephant, dolphin, and polar bear. With their round bodies, large fluffy ears and distinctive spoon-shaped noses, koalas are not only loved around the world but treasured symbols of Australia.

The future of Australian species depends on trees – and your support today. Make a donation to help plant and protect trees and give our beloved native animals like the koala a future.

Koalas are most commonly found in the eucalyptus forests that stretch along Australia’s eastern coast, from Queensland’s sun-drenched shores to South Australia’s chilly mountain woodlands. Koalas rely on these lush forests for both food and shelter and feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. They can eat up to 500 grams of leaves per day, using their keen sense of smell to pick out the freshest leaves. But no matter how juicy the leaf, this limiting diet is so low in nutrients that koalas need to spend an incredible amount of time resting. In fact, they can spend up to 20 hours a day doing their most important activity for survival - sleeping. Koalas typically start breeding at two to four years of age. The males use scent glands on their chests to mark their territories and attract female koalas. A koala joey will stay in its mother’s pouch for up to six months, at which point it hitches a ride on her back and begins exploring by itself. At 12 months of age, the joey will reach independence and venture off on its own until it finds its own patch of forest to call home. Sadly, being iconic and symbolic is not enough to save koalas from the threat of extinction. Historically, they were heavily hunted for their fur, leading to significant population declines in the 1900s. While they’re no longer hunted, koalas now face an ever-growing number of threats - from deforestation for agricultural and urban developments to the spread of the deadly koala Chlamydia disease, traffic strikes and dog attacks. In 2022, koalas were listed as Endangered in Qld, NSW and the ACT. The future of this iconic animal depends on us taking urgent action to safeguard them and their forest homes.

Koala eating eucalypt leaves
© Shutterstock / Janelle Lugge / WWF

Species bio

Common Name

Koala

Scientific Name

Phascolarctos cinereus

Indigenous Name

gula, burbi, bandurbah, dunggir, and bandjurah - Bundjalung (Qld) burraga, gulamany - Darug (NSW) barrandhang, gurabaan, naagun - Wiradjuri (NSW) kulla - Dippil (NSW) gula - Ngunnawal (ACT) Gurrborra - Woi wurrung (VIC)

Stats

Length: 50-80cm

Weight: A koala’s size is dependent on what part of Australia it lives in. The biggest koalas live in the south and can weigh up to 10kg, while in North Queensland, they weigh as little as 5.5kg.

Distribution: Throughout eucalyptus forests in eastern Australia - from North Queensland to across New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia.

Status

Endangered (EPBC Act – Qld, NSW, ACT only)

Why koalas matter

The koala is an iconic symbol of Australia. Koalas hold deep cultural significance to Aboriginal Australians, featuring prominently in Dreamtime stories, songs and rock art. Their Creation story tells how the koala is the reason animals survived rising seas and made it to mainland Australia. Loved globally for their adorable features and sleepy temperament, koalas also draw visitors to Australian wildlife parks and zoos from all corners of the world. In the wild, koalas serve as ambassadors for the many other animals that inhabit Australian nature. Protecting bushland areas in an effort to save koala populations also preserves the forest homes of other species like possums, greater gliders, wombats, quolls, birds, and reptiles. WWF-Australia is at the forefront of research efforts to protect koalas and restore their habitat. By donating to our cause, you can help safeguard koalas and thousands of other wildlife. Your generosity will serve as a beacon of support for conservation and animal advocacy, ensuring the iconic koala thrives in our forests for generations to come.

Threats

Disease

Chlamydia poses the most significant threat to koalas in South East Queensland and northern New South Wales, often resulting in fatal consequences. The disease appears in two forms: the first causes irritation to the koala’s eyes, which can lead to permanent blindness. The second form is more severe, affecting the koala’s kidneys and reproductive system. If left untreated, this form of Chlamydia can sadly lead to death.

Drought

Drought severely threatens koala populations, along with most other Australian animals. As temperatures soar and suck away all moisture, koalas face threats from bushfires, and water and food become scarce. This leaves them with nothing to eat and nowhere to go. Up to 12.6 million hectares of forest and bushland were destroyed in the 2019-20 bushfire crisis alone, and as droughts grow in frequency, so does the threat to koalas and the forests they call home.

Koala mother and her koala joey in a tree
Koala mother and her koala joey in a tree © Dominik Rueß - stock.adobe.com

Did you know ‘koala bears’ aren’t a real thing?

You may have heard this iconic animal is also called the ‘koala bear’. Despite its endearing charm, this nickname can be very misleading. Koalas are marsupials and thus have no relation to bears. While they have a few bear-like features, such as round ears, sharp claws and big black noses, koalas share more characteristics with other marsupials like the wombat.

Curious to learn more interesting koala facts? Discover 10 fascinating facts about koalas in this blog.

Read more

What we're doing to help koalas

See our conservation work on koalas.
Koala release in Emmaville NSW
© WWF-Aus / Adam Krowitz

Koalas Forever

Koalas Forever is our initiative to double koala numbers across eastern Australia by 2050. In 2019-20, we experienced the worst bushfire disaster in Australian history, and up to 12,6 million hectares of the forest bushland they rely on were destroyed. Koalas are now listed as endangered in Qld, NSW and the ACT, but we’re determined to save these precious populations from the brink of extinction. By working together, we can turn the tide for koalas. Koalas Forever aims to ensure koala populations are not only doubled by 2050 but that they and their forest homes are protected.

Learn More
Aerial view tropical rainforest, forest tree texture and background.
Aerial view tropical rainforest © WWF-Australia / Kalyakan - stock.adobe.com

Towards Two Billion Trees

Part of our mission to Regenerate Nature includes our ambitious plan to save and grow two billion trees by 2030. Australia has the highest rate of deforestation in the developed world, and we cannot allow this rate of destruction to continue. We all need trees to survive, and we’re urging the Australian government to take our nation from a deforestation hot spot to a leader in tree protection and restoration.

We’re working with our partners on the ground to restore and connect critical areas of habitat for animals like koalas across eastern Australia. These corridors will provide koalas with homes, food and a much-needed network of trees for safe passage.

Learn More
Raine the rescued koala joey moments after her release onto a koala habitat area
Raine the rescued koala joey © WWF-Australia / Free Vreman

Regenerative Country

Regenerative Country is our program to protect and recover species and habitats. Our vision is to transform Australia from a deforestation to a reforestation nation. We will work with communities to protect and regenerate vital landscapes and species here and abroad. One of our key goals in this program is to protect culturally significant species, including doubling the number of koalas in the wild on Australia’s east coast by 2050.

Learn more about our strategy
Koala climbing a tree with two people looking on
img-andy-the-koala-release-ipswich © WWF-Australia
Indigenous koala art from Wiradjuri and Gundungurra Yinaa artist Sarah Levett (square).
Indigenous koala art from Wiradjuri and Gundungurra Yinaa artist Sarah Levett (square). © Sarah Levett / WWF-Australia

INDIGENOUS KOALA ART WALLPAPER

Wiradjuri and Gundungurra Yinaa artist Sarah Levett worked together with WWF-Australia to create spectacular Indigenous koala art wallpapers.

Click through to see the artworks and download them to use as a Zoom or Teams background or wallpapers for desktop and mobile devices!

Download the wallpaper here

What you can do to help

  • Make a tax-deductible donation. Your generosity will help plant trees, protect remaining forests and save our precious animals like koalas from extinction.
  • Increase your impact and adopt a koala. Your symbolic adoption will help tackle the threats facing this iconic marsupial, track their populations and conserve their beautiful habitats. 
  • Sign the petition calling on our Australian Government to strengthen our national nature laws and save wildlife like koalas.