The Future of Australia’s Iconic Koala Is in Danger 

A koala chews on eucalyptus leaves. Photo by David Clode

By John Davidson, age 11 and Siena Kokolios, age 6 

Koalas are marsupials that live in eucalyptus trees—known locally as gum trees—in eastern and southern Australia. Marsupials carry their babies in a pouch. Koalas have big fluffy ears and a furry body that is usually brown or gray in color. They also have two thumbs on each paw to help them climb up trees and grip onto food.

Koala’s favorite food is eucalyptus leaves. They are the only animals which are able to eat eucalyptus leaves, because they have special bacteria in their gut which helps to break down the leaves’ toxins. But because eucalyptus leaves lack nutrition and are difficult to digest, koalas sleep for around 18 to 22 hours a day so they can conserve their energy. An adult koala can consume just over a pound of eucalyptus leaves a day.

One of the biggest threats to koalas is wildfires. In the 2019/2020 wildfire season, it’s estimated that around 8,400 koalas were killed just in the fires in the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone.

In addition to the fires, logging is also a big threat to koalas because it destroys their habitat and food. Dozens of koalas died in early 2020 after loggers only left a few blue gum trees standing at a timber plantation in the state of Victoria. The surviving koalas are being rehabilitated by wildlife carers. Environmentalists have called on the NSW government to end logging in all state forests that were burnt in the bushfires to help protect the remaining populations of koalas that survived. 

Rehabilitated: Bringing someone or something back to health or normal life through care and training.

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