Koala Bears Diet and what they eat
Koalas are herbivorous and feed exclusively on certain eucalyptus leaves. An adult can eat up to 500 g of leaves daily. Since the leaf of eucalyptus has large quantities of water, koalas almost do not drink water, the reason for which they were named “Koala”; in the language of the Aborigines, koala means “who do not drink.”
Koalas are very picky about their food.
Koalas love leaves. An adult koala is a leaf - eater. It eats eucalyptus leaves. When koalas are not sleeping, they are usually eating or looking for food. They do not have to look far, since their diet is made up almost entirely of eucalyptus leaves. Over 600 types of eucalyptus trees grow in Australia, but a koala will eat the leaves of only two or three kinds. It occasionally eats leaves from other trees as well, such as tea and cherry trees. Not all koalas like the same kinds of leaves.
A koala’s taste depends partly on where it lives. Each koala has its own favorite local trees from which it eats. Having a restricted diet like this causes big problems for koalas when their favorite food source is under threat or in short supply.
A single koala may eat just two types of eucalyptus all of its life. This is partly because it does not like to change. Once a young koala starts to eat the leaves of the trees in its home range, it tries to feed on the same kind, year after year.
Each region of Australia has its own types of eucalyptus, and most woodlands contains only a few of these. So koalas in the northeast eat different eucalyptus leaves than those in the southeast.
A 1- year – old koala eats about 11 oz. (300g.) of food each day.
A full – grown koala, about 3 years old, can eat up to 1.1 lb. (500g.) daily
The koalas are one of nature’s most fussy eaters. It will only eat the leaves and young shoots of the eucalyptus tree. It also eats the tree’s stems, flowers, and bark, but it likes the leaves best. And not just the leaves of any eucalyptus tree. Of the more than seven hundred varieties of eucalyptus, the koala will only eat from about three dozen of them.
If you are thinking that eucalyptus is highly nutritious because they are almost the only food that koalas eat, you are wrong. The leaves of eucalyptus have little protein, lots of material that is hard to digest, and are actually poisonous to most animals. Bacteria in koala’s stomach break down the poisonous oils in the leaves so they do not harm the koala.
The koala must eat between 1 and 1.5 pound (454 and 680 grams) of eucalyptus leaves a day to provide it with enough nutrition to survive. That is a lot to eat for a small animal. The koalas spend s about two to four hours a night chewing the tough leaves into a thin paste that it can swallow. When its stomach is full, it will store more leaves in its fat cheeks. Much of the other eighteen or more hours of a koalas’ day are spent sleeping. All that eating is hard work, and the koala’s poor diet provides it with a limited amount of energy.
A change of Diet
As soon they are born they are fed on its mother’s milk. Shortly after its eyes open, it starts to eat “pap”. These are special droppings produced by the mother, made from eucalyptus leaves she has partly digested. The baby’s stomach cannot digest fresh leaves, which are very tough. But pap contains leaves that the mother’s stomach has begun to break down. They are in a form that the Joey can digest.
Pap is the first step toward a life of eating leaves. But the young koala still takes milk from its mother’s teat every day. On milk alone, the Joey grows slowly. Once it begins to eat pap, growth is much faster.
Young koalas learn to identify food by copying their mother as she eats.
Did You Know...
Some of the koala’s favorite kinds of eucalyptus tree are blue gum, swamp gum, and gray gum.
Eucalyptus leaves provide the koalas with just about all the water its body needs. In the wild, koalas rarely, if ever, take a drink of water. The word koala in the language of the Australian Aborigines, the country’s native people, means “no drink.”
A koala’s complex digestive system allows it to break down the poisons and tough fibers found in the leaves it eats.
All eucalyptus leaves contain poison, but some have more than others. Koalas sniff each leaf and inspect it carefully before eating it. They can tell which leaves are the most poisonous and avoid them.
Koalas are tough eaters; eating eucalyptus leaves would kill most animals, but a koala can eat them without getting sick. It uses its strong jaws and ridged teeth to chew the leaves slowly and break them down as much as possible. The leaves then pass though a koala’s special digestive system, which takes out the poisons. Eucalyptus leaves contain few nutrients, so a koala must eat about a pound (500 g) of leaves per day in order to stay health.
Koalas sometimes climb down to the ground to eat soil and gravel. These provide natural minerals and help to break up the tough leaves inside the koala’s stomach.
All plants contain water, but it can be difficult to reach. The koalas’ slow and efficient digestive system absorbs all moisture from its food.
Eucalyptus leaves are spear – shaped and contain mostly water. In the morning these leaves are also covered with dew. Koalas get so much water by just eating that they rarely take a drink.
Every once in a while, a koala might climb down to the ground for a drink. But it doesn’t stay on the ground for long. As soon as it can, it climbs back up into the safety of the trees.
These are some of the koala’s favorite kind of eucalyptus trees:
This adult spent a long time sniffing these leaves before it finally decided to eat.