Save the Koala 

Koala And Joey

Do you remember 2019? It’s hard to believe the Bushfires that destroyed much of the Victorian countryside and east coast of Australia only happened less than 4 years ago, in the ‘Pre-Covid’ era. During that time, thousands of acres of trees were burned. One of the most enduring visual memories of that time was the photo of the badly singed koala being given water by a Firefighter, David Tree.  

Devastatingly, more than 60,000 koalas were impacted by these bushfires. Either by death, injury, loss of habitat or reduced food sources, i.e. Eucalyptus trees.  

Koalas are picky eaters and will only eat leaves from very few species of eucalyptus out of the hundreds found throughout Australia, although they have also been known to eat wattle, tea-tree and paperbark. TreeProject propagates and plants many different species used by koalas as food and habitat including, but not limited to, River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora), Grey Box (Eucalyptus macrocarpa). They also need other species, like Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon) for shade on hot days. If you are a grower for TreeProject, you might recognise some of these species in your growing kit! 

However gum leaves are not very high in nutrients and are hard to digest, so even after eating up to 1 kilo of leaves per day, Koalas can spend over 20 hours per day sleeping to conserve energy. Also, because they need such a large quantity of leaves, it’s important that they have many trees to choose from, with lots of new soft shoots.  They may also need to share trees with other koalas as their habitats tend to overlap. Each Koala needs up to 100 trees to have enough food and shelter, and they also need to be spaced close enough together so that the Koala can move easily between trees without worrying about predators such as dogs, or crossing busy roads. 

Did you know… 

In Spring and Summer, Koalas meet up to mate and the female will give birth to live a joey after 35 days of gestation. The joey lives in the mother’s pouch and suckles on the teat for up to 6 months, after which it emerges but still clings to its mother, usually on her back until it is a year old.  A female koala may have up to 6 offspring during her lifetime. Joeys can’t eat gum leaves as they are poisonous, and so they need to feed on their mother’s droppings until they build up enough micro-organisms in their gut to digest the leaves they will eventually eat. 

Most Australians are now aware that Koalas are not bears, as first thought by early settlers, but did you know that they were also once referred to as ‘monkeys’ due to their tree-climbing abilities? To climb a tree, they rely on strong limbs, specially adapted paws and extremely sharp claws that allow them to quickly climb up a tree trunk to escape ground predators. Their sense of balance also helps them to stay aloft whilst climbing out to the furthest reaches of the tree to feed, and sleep without falling out of a tree. 


The Koala population faces many different threats such as disease, climate change, dangers such as cars and dogs, and habitat loss from tree felling and urban encroachment.  Since European settlement, Australia has lost about 80% of koala habitat to deforestation.  To help preserve this Australian icon, growing and planting native trees is essential to help bring them back from the brink of extinction and ensure the long-term survival of Koalas in the wild. 


Article by Debbie Ho


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