Koalas and Their Lives in Eucalyptus Trees

A koala holding on to a tree trunk and looking straight into the camera.
A koala sleeping in a tree crotch, one of its favorite activities.
Sprawling Melbourne suburbs, with downtown Melbourn in the background.
Tourists taking a photo with a koala.
A female koala carrying its joey on its back.
A Jack Russel trying to get at an animal which has escaped up a tree.
A koala balancing on a thin branch.
Logging.
Joey peeking out of its mother’s pouch.
Koala chewing on eucalyptus leaves.
A koala crossing a street at a crosswalk, although it could of course cross streets anywhere.

The endearing koala, a native of eastern Australia, is a tourist attraction as well as a local Aussie favorite. Still, its everyday routines excite few. Found where eucalyptus trees grow, koalas live most of their lives in the canopies of these trees, eating leaves and sleeping.

With a lifestyle largely consisting of eating and sleeping, koalas have become experts at both. When eating, to begin with, they carefully pick out their preferred types of eucalyptus leaves, which they consume slowly. On a full stomach they then go to sleep for some eighteen hours in broad tree crotches, where they can comfortably rest without much risk of falling down.

Being on ground-level

As indicated by koalas preferring to sleep in trees, being on ground-level is dangerous and avoided as much as possible. However, when single males are ousted from a territory by stronger males, the physically inferior bucks sometimes have to cover long distances on the ground in search of new habitats. Moreover, all koalas, including mothers and joeys, regularly change trees and thereby find themselves forced to descend to ground-level temporarily.

The dangers koalas are exposed to when they have to be at ground-level include motor vehicles, a variety of predators and even pet dogs. Defenseless to these threats as they are, if attacked, the only thing koalas can do is to try to escape by climbing up a tree. Unfortunately for koalas, though, there are fewer and fewer trees to be found. This reduces places of refuge for koalas, and in a broader perspective, decreases habitable areas for koalas as a whole.

Deforestation

To expound on the koala habitat decrease, the trend of deforestation and urbanization, starting already with the settlement of the first Europeans in the late 18th century, has caused the koala to become a threatened species. This, in turn, has prompted government measures to safeguard koalas, including designating the bears a protected species. Even so, the long-term trend is that eucalyptus forests are decreasing and koala numbers are declining. Therefore, efforts by dedicated volunteers to monitor, lobby for and medically treat koalas are important in trying to maintain healthy individuals and sustainable population numbers.