Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wild World Wednesday ~ the Koala

We live in a wild world. Today we're visiting the deep forests of Australia to check out the koala bear; which actually isn't a bear at all!

I Have a Pouch

The koala may look like a cute cuddly bear (as its name implies), but it's actually a marsupial - like a kangaroo.

The mother koala only has one baby at a time. When the Joey is born it's about the size of a jellybean and is blind and hairless. It stays in its mother's pouch until it outgrows it (about 6 months). Once it emerges it will ride around on Mom's back or cling to her tummy until it's a year old.

We Don't Eat Meat!

Koala bears eat the bark and leaves of 12 different species of eucalyptus trees. In fact, one koala can consume up to 2.5 pounds (1 kilogram) of leaves a day! Since eucalyptus leaves are made up of 50 percent moisture the koala bear never has to look for a water source. Oddly though, the eucalyptus leaves are highly toxic to humans and other animals.

The koala bear can average a weight of 20 pounds and live for approximately 17 years. They have sharp claws and opposable digits on their paws which help them climb and stay aloft in the trees.

Their fur is soft and think and smells like a "cough drop" due to the oils in the eucalyptus leaves.

Koala Conservation

There is only about 100,000 koalas left in the wild today. Why? The koala bear was heavily hunted for its fur in the 1920s and 1930s, plus with Australia's current deforestation problem the koala bears' numbers have continued to plummet. However, efforts are in place to help restore the koala population.

Wild Wonder Words

~ marsupial ~ an animal that carries and cares for its young in a pouch
~ Joey ~a baby koala or kangaroo
~ opposable ~ capable of being placed against one or more of the remaining digits on a hand or foot
~ deforestation ~ the action of clearing a forest

For more articles and fun stories visit knowonder magazine for kids - it's FREE!


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