The baby koala is one of the most interesting creatures in Australia. Born at just about the size of a lima bean, these amazing marsupials lead miraculous lives. Did you know that koala joeys eat their mother’s poop to survive?
Keep reading to learn five astounding facts about the adorable baby koala!
#1: A Baby Koala is Called a Joey!
Chances are, you probably already know that baby kangaroos are called joeys. But did you know that baby koalas are also called joeys? It’s true! These two animals aren’t the only ones to have babies that share a name, either. Baby wallabies, possums, and wombats are a few other examples, too.
What’s even more amazing about these animals sharing names is that they’re all related! They belong to an elite group of animals called marsupials, who are well-known for carrying their young in pouches on their bodies.
#2: Koala Joeys Eat Poop!
It might come as a surprise to learn that koalas are extremely picky eaters. In fact, the koalas’ diet consists almost completely of eucalyptus leaves. They will occasionally eat other leaves but prefer this type by far. The only problem with their eucalyptus-rich diet is that koala joeys can’t digest it.
Newborn baby koala joeys can’t eat eucalyptus leaves directly and their mother’s milk only sustains them for a few months. So how do they eat? The answer might sound bizarre, but they eat their mother’s poop! This poop, called pap, is a substance that comes out of a mother koala’s anus and is eaten by their young. Its purpose is to provide koala joeys with pre-digested eucalyptus proteins to nourish their bodies.
Pap is so important to the health and wellness of a koala joey that it’s often shipped in the mail! Wildlife rescues that care for koala babies say that any koala mother can provide pap for another’s baby. The pap includes essential plant proteins and microbes that allow the koala baby to digest its food. That makes pap nature’s probiotic!
#3: Koala Babies are Seriously Tiny
Perhaps the most interesting thing about marsupials is their birthing process. When a baby koala is born, it emerges from its mother’s womb into her pouch. However, this tiny marsupial won’t be ready to see the world for the first time for about six months. This is because, at birth, they are seriously tiny – about the size of a gummy bear.
Koala mothers have an astoundingly short gestation period of about 33-35 days. Compared to human pregnancies of about 280 days, that’s a ridiculously short amount of time. However, the koala’s fleshy pouch allows babies to be born in the embryonic stage. Then, they finish growing inside this pouch.
Even though joeys are born blind, they instinctually find their way to safety and climb into their mother’s pouch.
While in their mother’s pouch, baby koala joeys drink milk from a teat inside. During this time, they grow slowly until they are about six to seven months old. At this age, they will peep their heads out of the pouch for the first time. It is also around this time that they start eating pap, which allows them to grow at a more rapid pace.
Eventually, they will venture out on their own to explore. A baby koala will remain with its mother for at least six months after birth. Often, a baby koala will hitch a ride on its mother’s back.
#4: Koala Joeys are Born High in Trees
Koalas are herbivorous animals that make their homes in the tops of trees. This helps keep them safe from predators and makes it easy to get eucalyptus leaves. Traveling to the base of trees to give birth would not only put a mother koala at risk but also her baby.
Did you know that koalas spend most of their day sleeping? Scientists say that these amazing marsupials spend up to 18 hours snoozing. This means that living in trees helps them stay safe from predators when their defenses are down.
It comes as no surprise when you take these facts into account that koalas give birth in trees. However, you might be wondering how the tiny marsupial babies don’t fall to their demise down below. The answer is simple: they are birthed into the safety of a cozy, warm pouch.
#5: Baby Koala Kits Spend a Majority of Their Lives Alone
Even though mother and baby koalas are inseparable at birth, they don’t stay that way forever. Tiny baby koala joeys are virtually defenseless and rely on their mothers for survival. However, once they can venture into the world alone, they are solitary animals. Seeing a group of koalas is so rare that scientists don’t even have a formal name for one!
The most astounding thing about this is that baby koalas’ time spent with their mothers is the most time they’ll spend with another koala – ever! What’s even more amazing is that baby koala joeys are ready to fend for themselves when they’re about a year old. From then on, they will live their lives in solitude, peace, and quiet, just like they prefer!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Anna Levan/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a baby koala called?
A baby koala is called a joey. They share this name with many other baby marsupials such as possums, kangaroos, and wallabies.
How much do baby koalas weigh?
Baby koalas are incredibly small at birth. When they first emerge into their mother’s pouch, they are about the size of a lima bean. When they can start eating eucalyptus leaves, they pack on the pounds and will eventually weigh anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds when fully grown.
What do baby koalas eat?
From newborn to about six months of age, koala joeys survive on milk from a teat in their mother’s pouch. Once they emerge, their tiny tummies can’t digest their main food source, eucalyptus leaves, so they eat a substance from their mothers’ bums called pap. As adults, they can eat over two pounds of eucalyptus leaves a day thanks to teeth that have adapted for huge levels of leaf consumption.
Where do baby koalas live?
Baby koala kits live high in the trees of Australia.
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