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The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) lives along the southeastern and eastern coastline of Australia. An aboriginal word, koala translates into "no drink". The koala derives its water from the fleshy eucalyptus leaves that it feeds upon. Only a sick koala will drink water. A marsupial, the koala has a pouch that it utilizes to carry its babies.
The koala spends the majority of its life in tree canopies. Its hand-like feet have adapted over time and exhibit two thumbs to help the koala better grip tree limbs. It also sports large claws to better facilitate its grip. Ridged hand pads give it traction. Well-muscled, the koala can jump from tree limb to tree limb with ease. It climbs to heights that often exceed 150 feet. The koala enjoys lounging in tree crooks where it naps and relaxes. Its bottom has a dense covering of fur to provide a cushion for the koala to reside on a branch.
More than 600 different kinds of eucalyptus trees exist within the koala bear's ecosystem which offers the animal a varied diet. The koala requires 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of leaves per day. Despite the koala's affinity for the eucalyptus trees, it will consume non-eucalyptus trees such as wattle or tea trees that arise within its range. Digestion of the various tree leaves takes a long time due to the koala's slow metabolism. During the day, the koala will nap for up to 18 hours safe within the tree's canopy shelter.
To escape the hot daytime temperatures the koala spends the night hours feeding. The excessive heat of the area saps the koala's strength and dehydrates it if it does not conserve its energy during the day. The koala lives in large, diverse social groups. The groups form territorial boundaries and guard their habitat range against other koala groups. The home ranges of various koala social groups will overlap during the breeding season which helps the animal's gene pool remain somewhat diverse. The size of the home range of each group varies dramatically and depends on the number in the group, age of the members and social status.
Wildfires often threaten the koala's delicate ecosystem. The slow moving animals rarely stand a chance of escaping fires. Wide scale logging and land clearing to utilize the land for farming also threatens the koala's very survival. Approximately 80 percent of the koala's ecosystem has been destroyed. The limited range and constant intrusions stress out the koala bear which weakens its immune system and makes it more susceptible to possible diseases.
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