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Have you ever heard someone refer to a koala as a "koala bear?" Well, like bears they are mammals, and they have round, fuzzy ears and look cute and cuddly, like a teddy bear. But koalas are not bears. They are members of a group of pouched animals called marsupials. Marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, wombats, possums, and opossums. Many kinds of marsupials are native to Australia.

The San Diego Zoo has the largest koala population and the most successful koala breeding program outside of Australia and was the first zoo in the United States to welcome a koala joey.

Fun Facts

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Range: Coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia, from Adelaide to the southern part of Cape York Peninsula.

Habitat: scrubland eucalyptus forest

Lifespan: 10 - 15 years

Diet: Herbivoreous. Koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves. Eating leaves from one kind of plant may seem boring, but there are more than 600 different kinds of eucalyptus trees and, from a koala's point of view, each looks and tastes very different!

Amazing Marsupials: Female marsupials have pouches in which they carry their babies. Many marsupials, like kangaroos, have pouches that open upward, toward their heads. But koalas have pouches that open toward their hind legs. This adaptation keeps burrowing marsupials like wombats, which are close relatives of koalas, from getting dirt in their pouches when they dig. Although prehistoric koalas eventually stopped burrowing and started living in trees, they still have the primitive, back-facing pouch.

Baby Jellybean: A koala baby is called a joey. Joeys are only the size of a jelly bean when born, and are not fully furred until they have been in their mom's pouch about six months.