Koalas at Cape Otway | Cape Otway
Koalas at Cape Otway
Koalas are plentiful at Cape Otway. They can be seen from the road but make sure you park in a safe spot as the road can be busy with road traffic with travellers visiting the Cape Otway Lightstation.
Koalas are well adapted to life in the trees and spend as much time in the branches as possible, only coming to ground briefly to change trees. Their sharp claws and opposable digits make tree climbing look easy. Koalas even sleep in the trees for between 18-20 hours, tucked into forks or nooks in the trees with a specially padded bottom!
Like all marsupials koalas give birth to tiny young called joeys which crawl into the mother’s pouch. Koalas have a pouch which is upside down! A female koala carries her baby in her pouch for about six months, from this time the joey rides on its mother’s back or clings to her belly until it is about a year old, continuing to share her home range until it is about 18 months old.
The koala’s diet is almost entirely comprised of the leaves of a small number of Eucalypt species. Generally koalas do not drink much water as they get most of their moisture from leaves.
Although Eucalypt leaves are abundant, their nutritional value is very poor and they also contain toxic substances. To overcome these problems Koalas carefully select their leaves, smelling them carefully before eating them. They have a highly specialised digestive process (including one of the longest guts in the mammal world!) which allows koalas to break down the tough eucalyptus leaves and remain unharmed by their poison.
Each animal eats a tremendous amount for its size – about a kilogram (two and a half pounds) of leaves a day. Leaf particles in the koala’s digestive tract are retained for up to 200hrs, among the very longest for any mammal.
Koalas have a unique ability to selectively retain part of their food for longer fermentation while allowing the rest to pass through more rapidly.
Victorian koalas look quite different to koalas further north in Queensland, with koalas at the northern reaches of their distribution much smaller (males up to 11 kg), with shorter fur and silver-grey in colour. Male koalas in Victoria southern Australia reach up to almost 15kg, are much fluffier and range from dark grey to almost brown.
A newborn Koala is smaller than a jellybean and weighs half a gram. Like other marsupials the joey is born as a partially developed embryo of 0.5g, The tiny joey climbs through the mother’s thick fur and into her pouch where it attaches to one of her two nipples and remains there for six months.
Save the koala
The Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway cares for injured Koalas. They rely upon donations to pay for re-habilitation and research. To support the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre make a donation.
Locals Tip: At dusk, from the roadside, you can often see a mob of Kangaroos in the open paddocks near the Cape Otway Conservation Ecology Centre.
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