Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) – Species Profile


Relaxed koala sitting among green foliage in a zoo.

The koala, scientifically known as Phascolarctos cinereus, is an iconic arboreal marsupial native to Australia. Despite being commonly referred to as a “koala bear,” it is not a bear but a marsupial, belonging to the family Phascolarctidae. Koalas are best known for their distinctive appearance, sedentary lifestyle, and specialized diet of eucalyptus leaves.


Koala resting in tree at zoo, known for slow and lazy behavior, nestled among green leaves. Explore habitat and unique characteristics.

Koalas are easily recognizable by their fluffy ears, stout body, and prominent nose. They have thick, ash-grey fur that helps regulate their body temperature and provides protection from the elements. Their large, spoon-shaped nose aids in their keen sense of smell, crucial for selecting suitable eucalyptus leaves for consumption. Koalas also have strong, clawed limbs adapted for climbing and gripping tree branches and specialized hind limbs for leaping between trees.


Koalas are endemic to Australia and can be found in various regions along the eastern and southeastern coast, including Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Their distribution is closely tied to the availability of suitable eucalyptus trees, which serve as their primary food source. While historically widespread, koala populations have faced significant declines due to habitat loss, disease, and other human-induced threats.

Habitat Preferences

Koalas thrive in a range of habitats, including eucalypt forests, woodlands, and coastal islands, where they can find ample eucalyptus leaves for sustenance. These environments provide the necessary resources for survival, including suitable food sources, shelter, and protection from predators. However, their dependence on specific tree species makes them particularly vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and degradation.

As a conservation scientist, it is imperative to address the challenges facing koala populations and work towards preserving their natural habitats to ensure their long-term survival.

Facts About Koala

  • Koalas are not bears; they are marsupials! (source: WWF Australia)
  • Baby koalas, known as joeys, are born the size of a jelly bean. (source: National Geographic Kids)
  • Koalas have unique vocal cords that produce a sound similar to a snore, used to communicate with other koalas. (source: WWF-UK)
  • The scientific name for koalas is Phascolarctos cinereus. (source: Queensland Environment Department)
  • Koalas primarily feed on eucalyptus leaves, consuming up to 1 kg of leaves each day. (source: Australian Koala Foundation)
  • These marsupials are found in the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia. (source: National Geographic Kids)
  • The average lifespan of a koala in the wild is around 20 years. (source: National Geographic)
  • Koalas have a specialized digestive system that detoxifies the chemicals in eucalyptus leaves, which are toxic to many other animals. (source: Tourism Australia)
  • Loss of koala habitat and food trees is the leading threat to the survival of these iconic animals. (source: Australian Koala Foundation)
  • Koalas are known for their sedentary lifestyle, spending most of their time sleeping and resting, up to 18-22 hours per day. (source: Friends of the Koala)

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