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Temporal range: 0.7–0 
Middle Pleistocene – Recent
Koala climbing tree.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Phascolarctidae
Genus: Phascolarctos
P. cinereus
Binomial name
Phascolarctos cinereus
(Goldfuss, 1817)
Koala Range.jpg
Koala range
Synonyms[2]: 45 [3]
  • Lipurus cinereus Goldfuss, 1817
  • Marodactylus cinereus Goldfuss, 1820
  • Phascolarctos fuscus Desmarest, 1820
  • Phascolarctos flindersii
    , 1827
  • Phascolarctos koala J.E. Gray, 1827
  • Koala subiens Burnett, 1830

The koala or, inaccurately, koala bear (Phascolarctos cinereus), is an

Victoria, and South Australia. It is easily recognisable by its stout, tailless body and large head with round, fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose. The koala has a body length of 60–85 cm (24–33 in) and weighs 4–15 kg (9–33 lb). Fur colour ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown. Koalas from the northern populations are typically smaller and lighter in colour than their counterparts further south. These populations possibly are separate subspecies
, but this is disputed.

Koalas typically inhabit open

weaned around a year old. Koalas have few natural predators and parasites, but are threatened by various pathogens, such as Chlamydiaceae bacteria and koala retrovirus

Because of its distinctive appearance, the koala along with the

Robert Brown wrote the first detailed scientific description of the koala in 1814, although his work remained unpublished for 180 years. Popular artist John Gould illustrated and described the koala, introducing the species to the general British public. Further details about the animal's biology were revealed in the 19th century by several English scientists. Koalas are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Among the many threats to their existence are habitat destruction caused by agriculture, urbanisation, droughts, and associated bushfires, some related to climate change. In February of 2022, the koala was officially listed as endangered in the Australian Capital Territory
, New South Wales, and Queensland.


The word koala comes from the

Dharug gula, meaning no water. Although the vowel 'u' was originally written in the English orthography as "oo" (in spellings such as coola or koolah — two syllables), the spelling later became "oa" and the word is now pronounced in three syllables, possibly in error.[4]

Adopted by white settlers, "koala" became one of several hundred Aboriginal loan words in Australian English, where it was also commonly referred to as "native bear",[5] later "koala bear", for its supposed resemblance to a bear.[6] It is also one of several Aboriginal words that made it into International English, alongside e.g. "didgeridoo" and "kangaroo."[6] The generic name, Phascolarctos, is derived from the Greek words phaskolos "pouch" and arktos "bear". The specific name, cinereus, is Latin for "ash coloured".[7]

Taxonomy and evolution

The koala was given its generic name Phascolarctos in 1816 by French zoologist

René Primevère Lesson in 1827, and P. koala by John Edward Gray in 1827.[2]
: 45 

The koala is classified with wombats (family Vombatidae) and several extinct families (including marsupial tapirs, marsupial lions and giant wombats) in the suborder Vombatiformes within the order Diprotodontia.[10] The Vombatiformes are a sister group to a clade that includes macropods (kangaroos and wallabies) and possums.[11] The koala's lineage possibly branched off around 40 million years ago during the Eocene.[12] The following Vombatiformes family tree is based on to Beck and colleges (2020).[13]



Phascolarctidae (koalas)













The modern koala is the only

gap between the molar and the incisor teeth.[17]
: 226 

P. cinereus may have emerged as a dwarf form of the giant koala (P. stirtoni). The reduction in the size of large mammals has been seen as a common phenomenon worldwide during the late Pleistocene, and several Australian mammals, such as the agile wallaby, are traditionally believed to have resulted from this dwarfing. A 2008 study questions this hypothesis, noting that P. cinereus and P. stirtoni were sympatric during the middle to late Pleistocene, and possibly as early as the Pliocene.[18] The fossil record of the modern koala extends back at least to the middle Pleistocene.[19]

Genetics and variations


pelage colour and thickness, body size, and skull shape. The Queensland koala is the smallest of the three, with shorter, silver fur and a shorter skull. The Victorian koala is the largest, with shaggier, brown fur and a wider skull.[20]: 7 [21] The boundaries of these variations are based on state borders, and their status as subspecies is disputed. A 1999 genetic study suggests that the variations represent differentiated populations with limited gene flow between them and that the three subspecies comprise a single evolutionarily significant unit.[21] Other studies have found that koala populations have high levels of inbreeding and low genetic variation.[22][23] Such low genetic diversity may have been a characteristic of koala populations since the late Pleistocene.[24] Rivers and roads have been shown to limit gene flow and contribute to the genetic differentiation of southeast Queensland populations.[25] In April 2013, scientists from the Australian Museum and Queensland University of Technology announced they had fully sequenced the koala genome.[26]

Characteristics and adaptations

Scratching and grooming

The koala is a stocky animal with a large head and

uteri.[9]: 3  The male's penile sheath contains naturally occurring bacteria that play an important role in fertilisation.[30] The female's pouch opening is tightened by a sphincter that keeps the young from falling out.[31]

The pelage of the koala is thicker and longer on the back, and shorter on the belly. The ears have thick fur on both the inside and outside.

shinbone lower than other animals.[2]: 183  The koala has a cartilaginous pad at the end of the spine that may make it more comfortable when it perches in the fork of a tree.[31]

The koala has one of the smallest

olfactory senses are normal, and it is known to sniff the oils of individual branchlets to assess their edibility.[9]: 81  Its nose is fairly large and covered in leathery skin. Its round ears provide it with good hearing,[31] and it has a well-developed middle ear.[14] A koala's vision is not well developed,[31] and its relatively small eyes are unusual among marsupials in that the pupils have vertical slits.[28] Koalas make use of a novel vocal organ to produce low-pitched sounds (see social spacing, below). Unlike typical mammalian vocal cords, which are folds in the larynx, these organs are placed in the velum (soft palate) and are called velar vocal cords.[35][36]

The koala has several adaptations for its eucalypt diet, which is of low nutritive value, high toxicity, and high in

cusped molars, where they are shredded into small pieces.[20]: 46  Koalas may also store food in their cheek pouches before it is ready to be chewed.[37] The partially worn molars of middle-aged koalas are optimal for breaking the leaves into small particles, resulting in more efficient stomach digestion and nutrient absorption in the small intestine,[17]: 231  which digests the eucalyptus leaves to provide most of the animal's energy.[20]: 47  A koala sometimes regurgitates the food into the mouth to be chewed a second time.[38]

Unlike kangaroos and eucalyptus-eating possums, koalas are

caecum—200 cm (80 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) in diameter—the largest proportionally of any animal.[2]: 188  Koalas can select which food particles to retain for longer fermentation and which to pass through. Large particles typically pass through more quickly, as they would take more time to digest.[20]: 48  While the hindgut is proportionally larger in the koala than in other herbivores, only 10% of the animal's energy is obtained from fermentation. Since the koala gains a low amount of energy from its diet, its metabolic rate is half that of a typical mammal,[9]: 76  although this can vary between seasons and sexes.[20]: 49  They can digest the toxins present in eucalyptus leaves due to their production of cytochrome P450, which breaks down these poisons in the liver.[39] The koala conserves water by passing relatively dry faecal pellets high in undigested fibre, and by storing water in the caecum.[17]
: 231 

Distribution and habitat

The koala's geographic range covers roughly 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi), and 30 ecoregions.[40] It extends throughout eastern and southeastern Australia, encompassing northeastern, central and southeastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria, and southeastern South Australia. The koala was reintroduced near Adelaide and on several islands, including Kangaroo Island and French Island.[1] The population on Magnetic Island represents the northern limit of its range.[40] Fossil evidence shows that the koala's range stretched as far west as southwestern Western Australia during the late Pleistocene.[20] Koalas were introduced to Western Australia at Yanchep.[41] They were likely driven to extinction in these areas by environmental changes and hunting by Indigenous Australians.[20]: 12–13  In South Australia, koalas were only known to exist in recent times in the lower South East,[20]: 32  with a remnant population in the Bangham Forest between Bordertown and Naracoorte,[42] until introduced to the Mount Lofty Ranges in the 20th-century. Doubts have been cast on Eyre's identification as koala pelt a girdle being worn by an Aboriginal man, the only evidence of their recent existence elsewhere in the State.[43]

Koalas can be found in habitats ranging from relatively open forests to

riparian habitats, where nearby streams and creeks provide refuge during times of drought and extreme heat.[44]
In a recent overview of koala research, Clode has noted that, despite their name, koala distribution is strongly linked to water. Their fossil distribution is associated with swamp forest habitats, their preferred feed trees tend to have relatively high water needs (e.g. river red gum), their distribution in forests and abundance over time is closely linked to the availability of water and their breeding success is often linked with riparian habitats.[45]

Ecology and behaviour

Foraging and activities

Koalas are

herbivorous, and while most of their diet consists of eucalypt leaves, they can be found in trees of other genera, such as Acacia, Allocasuarina, Callitris, Leptospermum, and Melaleuca.[9]: 73  Though the foliage of over 600 species of Eucalyptus is available, the koala shows a strong preference for around 30.[46] They tend to choose species that have a high protein content and low proportions of fibre and lignin.[17]: 231  The most favoured species are Eucalyptus microcorys, E. tereticornis, and E. camaldulensis, which, on average, make up more than 20% of their diet.[47] They will also consume other species in the genus such as E. ovata, E. punctata, and E. viminalis.[48] Despite its reputation as a fussy eater, the koala is more generalist than some other marsupial species, such as the greater glider. Since eucalypt leaves have a high water content, the koala does not need to drink often;[9]: 74  its daily water turnover rate ranges from 71 to 91 ml/kg of body weight. Although females can meet their water requirements by eating leaves, larger males require additional water found on the ground or in tree hollows.[17]: 231  When feeding, a koala holds onto a branch with hind paws and one forepaw while the other forepaw grasps foliage. Small koalas can move close to the end of a branch, but larger ones stay near the thicker bases.[9]: 96  Koalas consume up to 400 grams (14 oz) of leaves a day, spread over four to six feeding sessions.[2]: 187  Despite their adaptations to a low-energy lifestyle, they have meagre fat reserves and need to feed often.[2]
: 189 

Because they get so little energy from their diet, koalas must limit their

energy use and sleep or rest 20 hours a day.[9]: 93 [49] They are predominantly active at night and spend most of their waking hours feeding. They typically eat and sleep in the same tree, possibly for as long as a day.[20]: 39  On very hot days, a koala may climb down to the coolest part of the tree which is cooler than the surrounding air. The koala hugs the tree to lose heat without panting.[50][51] On warm days, a koala may rest with its back against a branch or lie on its stomach or back with its limbs dangling.[9]: 93–94  During cold, wet periods, it curls itself into a tight ball to conserve energy.[20]: 39  On windy days, a koala finds a lower, thicker branch on which to rest. While it spends most of the time in the tree, the animal descends to the ground to move to another tree.[9]: 94  The koala usually grooms itself with its hind paws, but sometimes uses its forepaws or mouth.[9]
: 97–98 

Social spacing

Koala resting in a tree between branch and stem
A bellowing male in the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Koalas are asocial animals and spend just 15 minutes a day on social behaviours. In Victoria,

Alpha males tend to establish their territories close to breeding females, while younger males are subordinate until they mature and reach full size.[2]: 191  Adult males occasionally venture outside their home ranges; when they do so, dominant ones retain their status.[9]: 99  When a male enters a new tree, he marks it by rubbing his chest gland against the trunk or a branch; males have occasionally been observed to dribble urine on the trunk. This scent-marking behaviour probably serves as communication, and individuals are known to sniff the base of a tree before climbing.[20]: 54–56  Scent marking is common during aggressive encounters.[53] Chest gland secretions are complex chemical mixtures—about 40 compounds were identified in one analysis—that vary in composition and concentration with the season and the age of the individual.[54]

Adult males communicate with loud bellows—low pitched sounds that consist of snore-like inhalations and resonant exhalations that sound like growls.[55] These sounds are thought to be generated by unique vocal organs found in koalas.[35] Because of their low frequency, these bellows can travel far through air and vegetation.[20]: 56  Koalas may bellow at any time of the year, particularly during the breeding season, when it serves to attract females and possibly intimidate other males.[56] They also bellow to advertise their presence to their neighbours when they enter a new tree.[20]: 57  These sounds signal the male's actual body size, as well as exaggerate it;[57] females pay more attention to bellows that originate from larger males.[58] Female koalas bellow, though more softly, in addition to making snarls, wails, and screams. These calls are produced when in distress and when making defensive threats.[55] Young koalas squeak when in distress. As they get older, the squeak develops into a "squawk" produced both when in distress and to show aggression. When another individual climbs over it, a koala makes a low grunt with its mouth closed. Koalas make numerous facial expressions. When snarling, wailing, or squawking, the animal curls the upper lip and points its ears forward. During screams, the lips retract and the ears are drawn back. Females bring their lips forward and raise their ears when agitated.[9]: 102–05 

Agonistic behaviour typically consists of squabbles between individuals climbing over or passing each other. This occasionally involves biting. Males that are strangers may wrestle, chase, and bite each other.[9]: 102 [59] In extreme situations, a male may try to displace a smaller rival from a tree. This involves the larger aggressor climbing up and attempting to corner the victim, which tries either to rush past him and climb down or to move to the end of a branch. The aggressor attacks by grasping the target by the shoulders and repeatedly biting him. Once the weaker individual is driven away, the victor bellows and marks the tree.[9]: 101–02  Pregnant and lactating females are particularly aggressive and attack individuals that come too close.[59] In general, however, koalas tend to avoid energy-wasting aggressive behaviour.[2]: 191 

Reproduction and development

Koalas are seasonal breeders, and births take place from the middle of spring through the summer to early autumn, from October to May. Females in

oestrus tend to hold their heads further back than usual and commonly display tremors and spasms. However, males do not appear to recognise these signs and have been observed to mount non-oestrous females. Because of his much larger size, a male can usually force himself on a female, mounting her from behind, and in extreme cases, the male may pull the female out of the tree. A female may scream and vigorously fight off her suitors but will submit to one that is dominant or is more familiar. The bellows and screams that accompany matings can attract other males to the scene, obliging the incumbent to delay mating and fight off the intruders. These fights may allow the female to assess which is dominant.[20]: 58–60  Older males usually have accumulated scratches, scars, and cuts on the exposed parts of their noses and their eyelids.[2]
: 192 

The koala's

joey (although twins occur on occasion). As with all marsupials, the young are born while at the embryonic stage, weighing only 0.5 g (0.02 oz). However, they have relatively well-developed lips, forelimbs, and shoulders, as well as functioning respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. The joey crawls into its mother's pouch to continue the rest of its development.[20]: 61  Unlike most other marsupials, the koala does not clean her pouch.[2]
: 181 

A female koala has two teats; the joey attaches itself to one of them and suckles for the rest of its pouch life.[20]: 61  The koala has one of the lowest milk energy production rates, relative to body size, of any mammal. The female makes up for this by lactating for as long as 12 months.[20]: 62  At seven weeks of age, the joey's head grows longer and becomes proportionally large, pigmentation begins to develop, and its sex can be determined (the scrotum appears in males and the pouch begins to develop in females). At 13 weeks, the joey weighs around 50 g (1.8 oz) and its head has doubled in size. The eyes begin to open and fine fur grows on the forehead, nape, shoulders, and arms. At 26 weeks, the fully furred animal resembles an adult and begins to poke its head out of the pouch.[20]: 63 

As the young koala approaches six months, the mother begins to prepare it for its eucalyptus diet by predigesting the leaves, producing a faecal pap that the joey eats from her cloaca. The pap is quite different in composition from regular faeces, resembling instead the contents of the caecum, which has a high concentration of bacteria. Eaten for about a month, the pap provides a supplementary source of protein at a transition time from a milk to a leaf diet.[17]: 235  The joey fully emerges from the pouch for the first time at six or seven months of age, when it weighs 300–500 g (11–18 oz). It explores its new surroundings cautiously, clinging to its mother for support. By nine months, it weighs over 1 kg (2.2 lb) and develops its adult fur colour. Having permanently left the pouch, it rides on its mother's back for transportation, learning to climb by grasping branches.[20]: 65–66  Gradually, it spends more time away from its mother, who becomes pregnant again after 12 months when the young is now around 2.5 kg (5.5 lb). Her bond with her previous offspring is permanently severed and she no longer allows it to suckle, but it will continue to live near her for the next 6–12 months.[20]: 66–67 

Females become sexually mature at about three years of age and can then become pregnant; in comparison, males reach sexual maturity when they are about four years old,[61] although they can produce sperm as early as two years.[20]: 68  While the chest glands can be functional as early as 18 months of age, males do not begin scent-marking behaviours until they reach sexual maturity.[54] Because the offspring have a long dependent period, female koalas usually breed in alternate years. Favourable environmental factors, such as a plentiful supply of high-quality food trees, allow them to reproduce every year.[17]: 236 

Health and mortality

Koalas may live from 13 to 18 years in the wild. While female koalas usually live this long, males may die sooner because of their more hazardous lives.

Durikainema phascolarcti, which are infrequently found in the lungs.[63] In a three-year study of almost 600 koalas admitted to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Queensland, 73.8% of the animals were infected with at least one species of the parasitic protozoal genus Trypanosoma, the most common of which was T. irwini.[64]

Koalas can be subject to

Prevalence of KoRV in koala populations suggests a trend spreading from the north to the south of Australia. Northern populations are completely infected, while some southern populations (including Kangaroo Island) are free.[65]

The animals are vulnerable to

Models of climate change in Australia predict warmer and drier climates, suggesting that the koala's range will shrink in the east and south to more mesic habitats.[66]

Human relations


The first written reference to the koala was recorded by John Price, servant of

Francis Louis Barrallier encountered the animal when his two Aboriginal guides, returning from a hunt, brought back two koala feet they were intending to eat. Barrallier preserved the appendages and sent them and his notes to Hunter's successor, Philip Gidley King, who forwarded them to Joseph Banks. Similar to Price, Barrallier's notes were not published until 1897.[2]: 9–10  Reports of the first capture of a live "koolah" appeared in The Sydney Gazette in August 1803.[68] Within a few weeks Flinders' astronomer, James Inman, purchased a specimen pair for live shipment to Joseph Banks in England. They were described as 'somewhat larger than the Waumbut (Wombat)'. These encounters helped provide the impetus for King to commission the artist John Lewin to paint watercolours of the animal. Lewin painted three pictures, one of which was subsequently made into a print that was reproduced in Georges Cuvier's Le Règne Animal (The Animal Kingdom) (first published in 1817) and several European works on natural history.[2]
: 12–13, 45 


Robert Brown was the first to write a detailed scientific description of the koala in 1803, based on a female specimen captured near what is now Mount Kembla in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Austrian botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer drew the animal's skull, throat, feet, and paws. Brown's work remained unpublished and largely unnoticed, however, as his field books and notes remained in his possession until his death, when they were bequeathed to the British Museum (Natural History) in London. They were not identified until 1994, while Bauer's koala watercolours were not published until 1989.[2]: 16–28  British surgeon Everard Home included details of the koala based on eyewitness accounts of William Paterson, who had befriended Brown and Bauer during their stay in New South Wales.[2]: 33–36  Home, who in 1808 published his report in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,[69] gave the animal the scientific name Didelphis coola.[2]
: 36 

The first published image of the koala appeared in

Bradypus. His disdain for the koala, evident in his description of the animal, was typical of the prevailing early 19th-century British attitude about the primitiveness and oddity of Australian fauna:[2]: 40 

...  the eye is placed like that of the Sloth, very close to the mouth and nose, which gives it a clumsy awkward appearance, and void of elegance in the combination ... they have little either in their character or appearance to interest the Naturalist or Philosopher. As Nature however provides nothing in vain, we may suppose that even these torpid, senseless creatures are wisely intended to fill up one of the great links of the chain of animated nature ...[70]

Naturalist and popular artist John Gould illustrated and described the koala in his three-volume work The Mammals of Australia (1845–1863) and introduced the species, as well as other members of Australia's little-known faunal community, to the general British public.[2]: 87–93  Comparative anatomist Richard Owen, in a series of publications on the physiology and anatomy of Australian mammals, presented a paper on the anatomy of the koala to the Zoological Society of London.[71] In this widely cited publication, he provided the first careful description of its internal anatomy, and noted its general structural similarity to the wombat.[2]: 94–96  English naturalist George Robert Waterhouse, curator of the Zoological Society of London, was the first to correctly classify the koala as a marsupial in the 1840s. He identified similarities between it and its fossil relatives Diprotodon and Nototherium, which had been discovered just a few years before.[2]: 46–48  Similarly, Gerard Krefft, curator of the Australian Museum in Sydney, noted evolutionary mechanisms at work when comparing the koala to its ancestral relatives in his 1871 The Mammals of Australia.[2]: 103–105 

The first living koala in Britain arrived in 1881, purchased by the Zoological Society of London. As related by prosecutor to the society, William Alexander Forbes, the animal suffered an accidental demise when the heavy lid of a washstand fell on it and it was unable to free itself. Forbes used the opportunity to dissect the fresh female specimen, thus was able to provide explicit anatomical details on the female reproductive system, the brain, and the liver—parts not previously described by Owen, who had access only to preserved specimens.[2]: 105–06  Scottish embryologist William Caldwell—well known in scientific circles for determining the reproductive mechanism of the platypus—described the uterine development of the koala in 1884,[72] and used the new information to convincingly place the koala and the monotremes into an evolutionary time frame.[2]: 111 

Cultural significance

Amy and Oliver the bronze koalas (by artist Glenys Lindsay)
Amy and Oliver the bronze koalas (by Glenys Lindsay)

The koala is well known worldwide and is a major draw for Australian zoos and wildlife parks. It has been featured in advertisements, games, cartoons, and as soft toys.[9]: ix  It benefited the national tourism industry by over an estimated billion Australian dollars in 1998, a figure that has since grown.[2]: 201  In 1997, half of the visitors to Australia, especially those from Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, sought out zoos and wildlife parks; about 75% of European and Japanese tourists placed the koala at the top of their list of animals to see.[2]: 216  According to biologist Stephen Jackson: "If you were to take a straw poll of the animal most closely associated with Australia, it's a fair bet that the koala would come out marginally in front of the kangaroo".[9]: ix  Factors that contribute to the koala's enduring popularity include its childlike body proportions and teddy bear-like face.[20]: 3 

The koala is featured in the

game animal and the length of its intestines.[20]: 17  Several stories tell of how the koala lost its tail. In one, a kangaroo cuts it off to punish the koala for being lazy and greedy.[9]: 28  Tribes in both Queensland and Victoria regarded the koala as a wise animal and sought its advice. Bidjara-speaking people credited the koala for turning barren lands into lush forests.[9]: 41–43  The animal is also depicted in rock carvings, though not as much as some other species.[9]
: 45–46 

Early European settlers in Australia considered the koala to be a prowling

anthropomorphic koala in The Bulletin cartoons, starting in 1904. This character also appeared as Bunyip Bluegum in Lindsay's 1918 book The Magic Pudding.[9]: 147  Perhaps the most famous fictional koala is Blinky Bill. Created by Dorothy Wall in 1933, the character appeared in several books and has been the subject of films, TV series, merchandise, and a 1986 environmental song by John Williamson.[9]: 149–52  The first Australian stamp featuring a koala was issued by the Commonwealth in 1930.[2]: 164  A television ad campaign for Australia's national airline Qantas, starting in 1967 and running for several decades, featured a live koala (voiced by Howard Morris), who complained that too many tourists were coming to Australia and concluded "I hate Qantas".[73] The series has been ranked among the greatest commercials of all time.[74]

The song "Ode to a Koala Bear" appears on the

Platinum Koala and Australian Silver Koala coins feature the animal on the reverse and Elizabeth II on the obverse.[75]

US President Barack Obama with a koala in Brisbane, Australia

The drop bear is an imaginary creature in contemporary Australian folklore featuring a predatory, carnivorous version of the koala. This hoax animal is commonly spoken about in tall tales designed to scare tourists. While koalas are typically docile herbivores, drop bears are described as unusually large and vicious marsupials that inhabit treetops and attack unsuspecting people (or other prey) that walk beneath them by dropping onto their heads from above.[76][77]

Koala diplomacy

Crown Princess Masako, Pope John Paul II, US President Bill Clinton, Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and South African President Nelson Mandela[9]
: 156 

At the 2014 G20 Brisbane summit, hosted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, many world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama were photographed holding koalas.[79][80] The event gave rise to the term "koala diplomacy",[81][82] which then became the Oxford Word of the Month for December 2016.[83] The term also includes the loan of koalas by the Australian government to overseas zoos in countries such as Singapore and Japan, as a form of "soft power diplomacy", like the "panda diplomacy" practised by China.[84][85]

Conservation issues

The koala was originally classified as Least Concern on the Red List, and reassessed as Vulnerable in 2014.[1] In the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland, the species was listed under the EPBC Act in February 2022 as endangered by extinction.[86][87] The described population was determined in 2012 to be "a species for the purposes of the EPBC Act 1999" in Federal legislation.[88]

Australian policymakers had declined a 2009 proposal to include the koala in the

WWF report found a 53% decline per generation in Queensland, and a 26% decline in New South Wales.[89] The koala population in South Australia and Victoria and appear to be abundant; however, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) argued that the exclusion of Victorian populations from protective measures was based on a misconception that the total koala population was 200,000, whereas they believed in 2012 that it was probably less than 100,000.[90] AKF estimated in 2022 that there could be as few as 43,000 individuals.[91] This is compared with 8 to 10 million at the start of the 20th century.[92][93] The Australian Government's Threatened Species Scientific Committee estimated that the 2021 koala population was 92,000, down from 185,000 two decades prior.[94]

The koala was heavily hunted by European settlers in the early 20th century,[2]: 121–128  largely for its thick, soft fur. More than two million pelts are estimated to have left Australia by 1924. Pelts were in demand for use in rugs, coat linings, muffs, and as trimming on women's garments.[2]: 125  The first successful efforts at conserving the species were initiated by the establishment of Brisbane's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Sydney's Koala Park Sanctuary in the 1920s and 1930s. The owner of the latter park, Noel Burnet, became the first to successfully breed koalas and earned a reputation as the foremost contemporary authority on the marsupial.[2]: 157–159 

One of the biggest anthropogenic threats to the koala is habitat destruction and fragmentation.[95] In coastal areas, the main cause of this is urbanisation, while in rural areas, habitat is cleared for agriculture. Native forest trees are also taken down to be made into wood products.[20]: 104–107  In 2000, Australia ranked fifth in the world by deforestation rates, having cleared 564,800 hectares (1,396,000 acres).[9]: 222  The distribution of the koala has shrunk by more than 50% since European arrival, largely due to fragmentation of habitat in Queensland.[40] Nevertheless, koalas live in many protected areas.[1]

While urbanisation can pose a threat to koala populations, the animals can survive in urban areas provided enough trees are present.

Chlamydia infection.[103]

See also


  1. ^ . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  3. .
  4. .
  5. ^ Edward E. Morris (1898). Dictionary of Australian Words (orig) Austral English. This author strongly deprecated use of another synonym, "sloth".
  6. ^ . Dixon et al. (1990) believe there to be some 400 loans in Mainstream Australian English [...] Some Aboriginal expressions have entered the stock of world English vocabulary; witness kangaroo, didgeridoo, koala, [...] Sometimes popular usage deviated markedly from scientific taxonomies, as in the case of the koala which became known as koala bear. [...] Both mallee and mallee scrub, koala, and koala bear are common today.
  7. .
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