What makes the koala such a special mammal?
The koala is a unique animal, a marsupial and not a bear, which occupies a unique eucalypt-eating niche in the Australian bush. There is no other animal that is similar in appearance, behaviour or habitat needs. It is gentle and poses no threats to humans or other animals. It is the only animal capable of digesting eucalyptus leaves, obtaining all of its nutritional and water needs from the leaves. Its liver is specially designed to digest this plant matter which is almost indigestible to any other creature. Baby koalas, called joeys, drink mother’s milk during their first 6-7 months of life. After 30 weeks, the mother produces a substance called pap. This substance is actually a specialised form of the mother’s droppings which, having passed through her digestive system, give the joey the enzymes it needs to be able to start digesting the tough gum leaves, making an easier transition for the baby koala to start eating eucalyptus leaves. The koala is one of very few mammals (and marsupials) with opposable thumbs, enabling it to live most of its life in gum trees.