(Phascolarctos cinereus)




Facts about this animal

The koala is the only representative of the family Phascolarctidae. The closest relative is the wombat. Adult koalas can weigh as much as 15 kg with a body size of up to 80 cm. Koalas from their northern range of distribution are considerably smaller than their southern counterparts. Southern koalas also have noticeably longer fur, which is more brown in colour than the typical grey fur colour, which is found in the northern populations. There is a pronounced sexual dimorphism with female koalas only reaching half the size and weight of an adult male. Females have the typical pouch, which males are lacking. Males have a very pronounced chest gland, the secretions of which are used for marking their territories, which are defended against male competitors. Female ranges do overlap, with several females usually living within a territory of a dominant male.


Koalas are dependent on fresh eucalyptus browse as their staple diet, for which reason they are only found in eastern Australia, where large tracts of Eucalyptus forests occur. Of the 700 known eucalyptus species in Australia some 70 species are used as food plants by the koalas. Koalas are perfectly adapted to a life in trees and only rarely come down to the ground. In view of the low nutritional value of their eucalyptus diet koalas sleep up to 20 hours per day, so as to best conserve their energy. After a very short gestation period of some 32 to 35 days a single young is generally born. The joey finds its own way into the mother's pouch where it attaches itself to one of the two teats and stays for the next 6 months. After 7 to 8 months the joeys leave the pouch but stay with their mother until some 2 years of age. The longevity in the wild is given as 16 to 18 years. The oldest koala in human care died at the age of 22 years.

Did you know?
that koalas sleep up to 20 hours per day in view of the very low nutrient value of their eucalyptus diet? that koalas feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves? that new-born koalas are not bigger than a jellybean? that in the koala's hands two fingers are opposed to the other three fingers, thus allowing for a perfect grip when climbing in the trees? that male koalas are up to 50% heavier than females? that koalas have been heavily hunted in the past for their soft fur?


Name (Scientific) Phascolarctos cinereus
Name (English) Koala
Name (French) Koala
Name (German) Koala
Name (Spanish) Koala
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed


This factsheet was compiled by
Achim Winkler, Zoo Duisburg, February 2006


Photo Copyright by
Arnaud Gaillard



Range Eastern Australia
Habitat Eucalyptus forest
Wild population 43,515-84,615 (2011) (Australian Koala Foundation)
Zoo population 367 animals reported to ISIS (2008).

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

Koalas may be transported in a well-ventilated plywood box measuring 75 cm wide x 95 cm high x 95 cm long. Ideally, the box should contain a forked branch for the animal to sit on.

There is no Container Note for koalas in the IATA Live Animals Regulations.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Cody Pope

Why do zoos keep this animal

The koala is one of the most famous animals of the Australian continent, thus an excellent ambassador species for Australian wildlife. Keeping koalas in the zoo environment is also important to create awareness about the dramatic decline in numbers, which the koala has experienced in the wild, with numbers down to just a few hundred thousands from several millions in the past. In earlier years koalas were hunted in huge numbers for their fur. While the hunting was officially banned in 1933, thus granting full protection to the koala, their habitat is not protected. Each year large tracts of eucalyptus forest are being felled, thus robbing the koalas of their natural environment.

While the koala is not yet considered to be threatened in the wild, an ex situ reservoir is becoming more and more important in view of the declining numbers in the wild.

Australian zoos also often come into the situation to keep koalas for animal welfare reasons as they may accept and care for sick, injured or orphaned animals.