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The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF)

How do they live?
How do they communicate?

Koalas live in societies, just like humans, so they need to be able to come into contact with other koalas. Because of this they need to have areas of suitable eucalypt forest which are large enough to support a healthy koala population and to allow for expansion by maturing young koalas.

"Habitat" refers to the types of bushland that koalas like to live in. They are found in a range of habitats, from coastal islands and tall eucalypt forests to low woodlands inland. Today, they do not live in rainforest, although it is thought that millions of years ago, the ancestors from which today's koalas evolved lived in the rainforests which covered much of Australia at that time.

Facts vs Myths


Koalas are marsupials. They carry their young in a pouch. Koalas are NOT bears.


The greatest threat facing wild koala populations today is the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat.


Since white settlement of Australia approximately 80% of the koala’s habitat has been destroyed. Of the remaining 20% almost none is protected and most occurs on privately owned land.


Stopping trees from being cleared in the first place and protecting existing koala habitat is the most effective way to conserve koalas.


Koalas have specific, specialised habitat requirements which include the presence of other koalas in the first instance, followed by the presence of preferred food trees. Wild koalas arrange themselves in socially stable breeding groups where each koala has its own home range.


Koalas are territorial animals. They do not wander aimlessly through the bush.


Koalas store little or no fat.


Koalas must adopt strategies that conserve energy. Sleeping is one of them.

A little history

Koalas or koala-like animals probably first evolved on the Australian continent during the period when Australia began to drift slowly northward, gradually separating from the Antarctic land mass some 45 million years ago.

Fossil remains of koala-like animals have been found dating back to 25 million years ago.
As the climate changed and Australia became drier, vegetation altered until what we recognise as eucalyptus, or gum trees, evolved and koalas became dependent on them for food.  

How koalas communicate

Koalas use a range of sounds to communicate with one another over relatively large distances. There is a deep grunting bellow which the male uses to signify its social and physical position. Males save fighting energy by bellowing their dominance and they also bellow to allow other animals to accurately locate the position of the caller. Females do not bellow as often as males, but their calls too are used to express aggression as well as being part of sexual behaviour, often giving the impression of fighting. Mothers and babies make soft clicking, squeaking sounds and gentle humming or murmering sounds to one another, as well as gentle grunts to signal displeasure or annoyance. All koalas share one common call which is elicited by fear. It is a sickening cry like a baby screaming and is made by animals under stress. It is often accompanied by shaking. Koalas also communicate by marking their trees with their scent.

What is happening to koala habitat?

Since European settlement, approximately 80% of Australia's eucalypt forests have been decimated. Of the remaining 20% almost none is protected and most occurs on privately-owned land. Settlers have favoured the rich fertile lands along the eastern seaboard to have their farms and urban developments. Unfortunately, this is where the majority of koalas are already living because they also like to live in trees which are growing in fertile soils.

How many are left and where are they?

Results from the AKF's Koala Habitat Atlas deliver a grim picture about the status of koala populations in all regions studied so far. Available habitat was found to be fragmented and degraded, and in many areas of suitable habitats, the koalas themselves were found to be absent.

The AKF believes that the national wild koala population has dropped to less than 100,000, a far cry from the millions which were shot in the 1920's for their furs. At the present rate of destruction of habitat, and with up to 4,000 koalas presently being killed each year by cars and dogs, it is obvious that time is running out. Action is needed now to halt this alarming decline in koala numbers.

What is being done to help?

While things look grim for the koala, there are many people already helping to ensure that this beautiful native animal survives for future generations. Many local koala groups are keeping vigilant in their area about destruction of habitat and are taking care of sick, injured and orphaned koalas so that they can be released back in the wild where they belong.

However, we must ensure that koalas and other healthy animals have undamaged habitat to live in. There is little point in making a koala well, only to release it back into damaged habitat or habitat which is at risk of destruction, if we aren't at the same time doing everything possible to preserve what habitat remains. It is very likely to come back injured, sick or dead at a later date.

Photos 1 and 2: Ann Sharp (taken at Koala Lone Pine Sanctuary) - Photo 3. Philip Wright


evolved: developed (se desarrollaron)
pouch: pocket or small sac (bolsa)
threat: danger (peligro)
remaining: the rest (restante)
stable: not variable (estable)
wander: going everywhere in freedom (andan)
fat: grease (grasa)
to drift: to move (desplazarse, movilizarse)
gum trees: Eucalyptus or Liquidambar trees (árboles resinosos como eucaliptos o liquidámbar)
grunting bellow: koalas's shout (gruñido)

scent: distinctive odor, perfume (olor)
decimated: killed in large numbers, eliminated (destruidos, eliminados)
seaboard: shore of sea or ocean (plataforma marina)
grim: depressing, gloomy (lamentable)
so far: up to now, until now (hasta el presente)
running out: ending, finishing (extinguiéndose)
taking care of: looking after, taking charge of (haciéndose cargo de, cuidando)
at risk: in danger (en peligro)