The Koalas of Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road

Koalas are an iconic image of Australia, with many tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these cute, furry creatures on their trip down under. But apart from the fact that they eat tonnes of Eucalyptus and they give good hugs, not many people know a lot about these awesome creatures.

Whilst you might associate koalas with the entirety of Australia, they are only found in certain places throughout the country. You’ll be able to see them in coastal regions in the east and south, but will be unlikely to spot them in Tasmania or West Australia where there are none at all.

One of the best places you can see them, though, is the Kennett River. Located in Victoria along the Great Ocean Road, this area is home to hundreds of colonies that live in both the dense forests and in more urbanised hotspots – you might be lucky enough to see them relaxing on someone’s balcony or casually crossing the road.

The best time to visit? In the late afternoon when they’re more active, eating and grooming and looking for more food. They tend to sleep throughout most of the day, so try and catch them on the move if you can.

Koala of Kennett River

The small hamlet near the Otway Coast and off Grey River Road is the best place to catch sight of these critters thanks to its abundance of Eucalyptus plants. But now you know where to find them, what else do you need to know about Australia’s best-loved creatures?

Things to Know about Koalas

Their name is Aboriginal

Their name actually stems from an old Aboriginal word which means ‘no drink’ because they get more than 90% of their liquid intake from Eucalyptus plants and gum leaves – no wonder they’re always munching away.

Their Babies are named ‘Joeys’

Yes, usually most would think of the Kangaroo when the word Joey comes up, but it is, in fact, the same title given to the Koala Babies. A female Koala can give birth to one joey every year, however, the older the female gets the fewer babies they will produce. When a Joey is born, they are only about 2 centimetres long. They are born blind, deaf, and furless, essentially being tiny pink creatures. They spend the rest of their development in the pouch, drinking the milk from their mother for 6 to 7 months until there are strong enough to enter the real world.

They are fussy eaters

Koalas survive on a complete diet of eucalyptus leaves and nothing else! And out of the more than 700 eucalypt species in Australia, the Koala will only eat around 50 of them! That’s right! Luckily, the leaves they choose to munch on give them all the nutrients they need. However, what makes this food choice so strange is that they are toxic! With most animals getting sick and staying clear of the long green leaves. However, Koalas have developed a special way to digest the toxin without harm. Creating a special fibre digesting organ, called a caecum, to help detoxify the chemicals in the leaves.

They’re greedy things

If koalas get more than 90% of their water intake from Eucalyptus leaves you can imagine that they’re going to eat a whole lot during the day. In actual fact, they eat up to half a kilo of leaves every single day to maintain their nutrition levels – that’s a whole lot of eating!

They’re not bears

A lot of people consider koalas to be bears. They have similar features, like climbing trees, and just generally look like a lot of bear species. However, they are definitely not related to bears in anyway. They are in fact marsupials, which means the females have a characteristic little pouch on their stomach where they raise their babies.

They sleep the majority of the time

Koalas are known to sleep around 18 hours every day, spending the majority of the time snoozing in the sunshine. Only waking up to eat, mate, or for bathroom breaks. The rumour is that it is due to the creatures ‘getting high’ from the toxic leaves. Although this is an amusing rumour, it is simply not true. The reason for their constant sleeping state is due to their nutrient intake. Eucalyptus trees are very low in nutrients, so koalas need more sleep compared to most animals to help conserve their energy.

Koala is sleeping

When they do wake up, Its at night

Koalas are mostly nocturnal! During this time, Koalas can move trees, enforce their territory, look for a mate during the breeding season, and eat.

Their fuzzy fur suits the Aussie heat

Depending on where the Koala is based in Australia, their fur will change. Around the southern parts of the country, including the Great Ocean Road, the fur is longer and shaggier, to keep them warm during the frosty winter season. During the summer, the creatures simply laze about in the shade, while keeping from moving to a minimal. The fur hides their large pouch, found towards the rear of their body. These pouches keep their young safe, with strong muscles around the pouch to secure the babies when the mother is climbing.

They have two opposable thumbs

Much like us, Koalas have 5 digits on each front paw. However, unlike our finger placement, the koalas actually have two ‘thumbs’ and three straight fingers. The two thumbs can move differently from the fingers. Which helps them in gripping tree branches, making them exceptional climbers. Their hind paws have the 2nd and 3rd digits fused together to form a grooming claw for their fur.

Koala Thumbs

They’re noisy

The photos of koalas that you see on the internet will have you believe that they are cute, cuddly critters that are pretty sleepy and harmless. In reality, they can be quite aggressive when faced with something they don’t like. And when they’re aggressive they’re loud – people often confuse the harsh grunting noises they make with those of pigs and other, much larger, wild animals.

Seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is a magical experience that not many people get the opportunity to do. So, if you want to get to know more about these cute critters and watch them as they laze about in gum trees, head to the Kennett River for some prime viewing opportunities.

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