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Animals & Attractions

Koala

Edinburgh Zoo is home to the UK's only koalas. We currently have three koalas, two males and one female.

Our adult male koalas are called Goonaroo and Yabbra.  Goonaroo's name is Aboriginal for “wood duck,” and he was born in 2004.  Yabbra was born in 2005.  Yabbra's name is Aboriginal for “the fugitive” (as he kept popping out of his mother’s pouch at a very early age!)

On 14 February 2013 we received a female koala called Alinga (which means sun) from Duisburg Zoo in Germany.

In May 2013 Alinga had a male joey called Yooranah, but sadly he passed away on 21 June 2016 after quite a long period of illness. Whilst none of our own experts – or other international experts we spoke to – can say 100% why he died, the team here at Edinburgh Zoo did everything they could to try and address the situation.

Location in the Zoo:

Our koalas can be found in our Koala Territory exhibit.

Please note: Due to our schedule of annual site maintenance, some of our indoor exhibits will be closed during the winter months. Koala Territory is currently closed to the public. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

 

Breeding Programme Category:

Our koalas are managed by the International Stud Book programme (ISB)

 

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Status

  • DD
    DATA DEFICIENT
  • lc
    LEAST CONCERN
  • nt
    NEAR THREATENED
  • VU
    VULNERABLE
  • EN
    ENDANGERED
  • CR
    CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  • EW
    EXTINCT IN THE WILD
for more information on classifications visit www.iucnredlist.org

Size

Relative to 6ft (2m) man Relative to 6ft (2m) man

Population

Population is unknown, IUCN June 2008

Habitat

  • Woodland

    Woodland

Diet

Herbivore Herbivore

In The Wild

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus adustus) are one of the most iconic animals in Australia and although they are bear like in appearance they are in fact marsupials. There is only one species of koala but there are distinct regional differences depending on which area of Australia they are found – the further south you go, the larger and hairier the koalas become!


Koalas are usually solitary animals, each with their own home range or territory. Females will travel with their offspring until they are independent and able to establish their own home range. Male koalas have a scent gland situated on the front of their chests which secretes a smelly scent that the koalas rub on the base of trees to mark their territory and warn other males of their presence to avoid conflict.

Only a handful of other animals are able to use eucalyptus as a food source as its high levels of essential oils are toxic to most species. Koalas have special cheek teeth which help grind the leaves into a fine paste. This paste then enters their specialised digestive system which breaks down the eucalyptus to eliminate the toxic material whilst allowing the rest to be digested safely.

Due to their diet lacking nutrition, koalas carry no body fat - every bit of energy derived from food is used to drive essential body functions and enable the koala to move. Therefore the koala spends long periods of time sleeping, normally between 18 and 22 hours a day, to help compensate for this. Koalas are rarely seen drinking – most of their water intake comes from the eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas are marsupials and this means they have a different reproductive system compares to other mammals. After mating the 11 – 35 day old embryo, which is the size of a jelly bean at this stage, is born. It crawls into the pouch of the female koala and attaches to a teat where it stays for approximately 7 months to develop, similar to kangaroos and wallabies. In the pouch the joey (baby) feeds on milk and a substance called ‘pap’, which is a watery form of the mother’s poo. This will provide the joey’s digestive system with the micro-organisms essential for digesting the toxic eucalyptus leaves. When the baby (called a joey) is ready to emerge they can often be seen poking out of their mothers rear-facing pouch. When they are developed enough they will come out and ride around on its mother’s back.

Koala numbers are in decline throughout the Eastern coast of Australia where they naturally occur. The eucalyptus forests that the koalas depend upon for survival are disappearing to make way for roads and housing as more areas are being inhabited by humans. When koalas move from one tree to another on the ground they are very vulnerable to predation from dogs, both wild and domestic, and many are struck by cars. They are also killed for “fun” by humans with guns as they are quite literally “sitting targets” whilst asleep in the trees.

When wildfires break out, whole eucalyptus forests are wiped out very quickly as eucalyptus burns easily – this has devastating effects on the koalas’ food supply and many are trapped in the burning trees.

Behind the scenes with our koalas

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