Animal Species:Koala

The Koala is one of Australia's best-known animals.

Koala asleep in tree

Koala asleep in tree
Photographer: HOWARD HUGHES © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name



The Koala's thick ash-grey fur, white chest and round head with fluffy ears make this species unmistakable.

Size range

68-82 cm


The Koala has a disjointed distribution from northern Queensland to southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. The Koala is no longer as common in Sydney as it once was. Clearing and fragmentation of its habitat for housing developments and farming have significantly reduced its distribution.


The Koala lives in eucalypt forests.

Feeding and Diet

The Koala has a highly specialised diet made up of the leaves of certain species of eucalypts as well as some flowers and stems. The eucalypt leaves are high in fibre and the Koala has a long caecum (part of the large intestine) to aid with digestion. The leaves also have a high moisture content and the name Koala is an Aboriginal term meaning 'no drink'.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Most of the Koala's time is spent in eucalypt trees sleeping and feeding, although occasionally it travels along the ground like its closest relatives, the wombats.

Mating and reproduction

The Koala is solitary and the larger males have scent glands on their chest. Breeding occurs during summer and usually one baby, or joey, is produced each year. After six months in the pouch, the joey is gradually weaned from milk, to leaves and soft liquid faeces, called pap, from the mother. This is thought to provide the right bacteria needed to digest eucalypt leaves.

Conservation Status

It has been listed as Vulnerable in New South Wales and a remnant population around Avalon on Sydney's northern beaches is listed as an Endangered population under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Conservation Status (NSW): Vulnerable species

What does this mean?



What does this mean?

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Tags koalas, marsupials, vertebrates, wildlife of sydney,


Mark Eldridge - 10.08 AM, 27 August 2010

Hi erialc,

Unfortunately the koala population on the Northern Beaches of Sydney is probably now extinct. We have not had any recent reports of koalas from the area. In 1998 when this population was listed as an 'Endangered population' by the NSW Scientific Committee under the NSW Threatened Species Act, it was estimated that there were less than 6 koalas remaining. In the 1970s it was thought that over 100 koalas lived in the area. It is very hard for small isolated populations like this to persist especially when they continue to lose habitat and there is ongoing negative interactions with cars and domestic pets etc. 

Mark Eldridge - 8.08 AM, 27 August 2010

Hi Jenny, thanks for the photo. It’s a great one. They are very photogenic beasts. The name 'koala' appears to be derived from an eastern New South Wales Aboriginal language, but the exact details are a bit unclear.  The first Aboriginal names for the koala were recorded by Europeans from around Sydney from 1798-1803. These were 'cullawine' (or cullewine), 'colo' and 'koolah'. The name 'koala' we use today is probably derived from one of these. Although Europeans first settled Sydney in 1788, it was not until 1798 that the first koala was noted by them and the first whole specimen was not obtained until 1803.

erialc - 3.08 PM, 11 August 2010
I have been living in Avalon for nearly a year and had hoped to see a koala with no such luck. My friend says there's none left and hasn't been for years. Is this true? This really saddens me, especially as some of my neighbours are making their best efforts to get rid of our local grey headed flying fox colony. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful and naturally diverse area. Why is the human race so intent in destroying everything in its pathway?

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jenny-gruber - 11.06 PM, 08 June 2009
Interesting information about the Aboriginal term for koala meaning "no drink". Is it known which region of Australia this term originated? (Attached is a recent photo I took of a koala at the Australian Koala Park).

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