The tiny newborn koala lives and grows inside its mother’s pouch for the first six months of its life. The pouch is a warm, cozy place for the baby koala. It also keeps the Joey safe from predators.
The Joey (baby koala) grows very slowly inside the pouch. Its eyes open about 22 weeks after birth. For the first time, the Joey pokes its head through the pouch entrance and looks around. Even though the pouch opens upside down, the tiny koala can’t fall out. There are muscles around the pouch entrance, like the drawstring on a purse. The mother can tighten these to close the entrance and stop the baby from falling out. While her Joey is safe and snug in her pouch, the mother koala can continue life as normal.
The koala’s pouch is useful for living in trees. It holds a baby koala, so the mother can use both hands for climbing. The pouch also allows a mother to take her baby along while she looks for food.
The Joey uses the pouch as a safe place to rest when it is too tired to cling to its mother. The pouch hides a baby koala from animals that may want to eat it. It also keeps the Joey warm when the weather is cool.
The Upside-down pouch
Many female marsupials, such as kangaroos, have a pouch that opens on the upper side, like a pocket. But the koala’s pouch opens at the lower side. Its entrance is near the mother’s tail. Once the Joey is inside, the pouch entrance closes. The Joey is warm and protected, with plenty of milk to drink. Its mother can still move easily through the treetops.