Do you have a favorite stuffed animal? Perhaps a teddy bear? Wouldn’t it be great if that warm, furry stuffed animal was alive and could cuddle and play with you?

That’s exactly what many kids think of when they see a certain adorable Australian animal. What are we talking about? Koalas, of course!

Koalas are often called koala “bears,” because they look a bit like small bears. However, koalas aren’t bears at all. They’re actually marsupials, like kangaroos.

Like kangaroos, koalas have pouches where their babies develop. Newborn koalas — called joeys — are only about the size of a jelly bean! They’re born blind, hairless and without ears.

The mother will carry her joey in her pouch for about six months. After that time, the joey will be old enough to come out of the pouch and ride on its mother’s back.

Koalas live in the plentiful eucalyptus trees of eastern Australia. They are good climbers that can easily leap from one treetop to another. Their sharp claws allow them to hold on tight to branches while they sleep.

Eucalyptus leaves are the main source of food — and water — for koalas. Most koalas will eat over two pounds of eucalyptus leaves each day.

Eucalyptus leaves and their oils contain toxins that will make most animals sick if they eat them. Koalas, however, have special digestive systems that allow them to break down the tough leaves and filter out the toxins.

This digestive process takes time and energy, though. This leads most koalas to feed at night and sleep up to 16 or more hours each day. Koalas may appear to be lazy, sleeping in eucalyptus trees all day, but they’re actually getting the rest their bodies need to digest their food!

Koalas weigh about 20-30 pounds on average and grow to be around two feet tall. Their round, plump appearance, combined with their soft, fuzzy fur, gives them their cuddly, bear-like appearance.

There used to be millions of koalas. In the 1920s, though, koalas were hunted for their fur. Today, koalas are protected in Australia, but they still face threats from dogs, automobile traffic and destruction of their eucalyptus forests. Researchers estimate there are about 100,000 koalas alive today.

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    • Happy New Year, Ms. Bayko’s Class! We’re so glad you are WONDERing with us today! We think you’re right; koalas aren’t used to being surrounded by humans, so we can observe them from far away! :)

      Thanks for sharing your WONDERful guess for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We Wonder if you have ever tried your hand at pottery, Wonder Friends? :)

    • What a STELLAR guess from our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Bryant’s Class! We’re glad that you’re using your imagination with us today! :)

  1. We found this very interesting. Koalas aren’t just cuddly cute creatures. We know that living things have specific adaptations for survival. This wondering really made us think deeply and connect our understanding! Thanks for posting!

    • Thank you for sharing your SUPER comment, Mrs. Donald’s 3rd graders! We think it’s very interesting to learn that koalas are some of the only animals to digest eucalyptus leaves. It’s important to remember that we must respect animals in their natural habitat! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  2. We forgot to post our prediction for tomorrow’s wonder…we’re thinking it might be taking a closer look at who creates beautiful pottery. Native American pottery?!?

    • Phew, we’re glad you shared your WONDERful guess with us, Wonder Friends! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… thanks for stopping by to say hello! :)

  3. We were surprised about the toxins.
    We were still wondering if the waste of koalas is dangerous?
    We enjoy wondering with you everyday, and writing in our “Wonder Journals”.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about the pottery of Ancient Greece and the history of pottery.

    • What a great question, Wonder Friends in Holly Bloodworth’s Class! It seems that it’s not the waste that we need to be worried about, because the koala liver helps filter those toxins. There is a bacteria in the koala’s stomach that helps break down those toxins to safely digest the leaves! :)

      Thanks for WONDERing with us and recording your very own thoughts in your Wonder Journals! We’re proud of you! :)

    • We learned that koalas like eucalyptus leaves, Aniyah, but we Wonder what else they enjoy eating…? Koalas are part of the marsupial family, but they’re closely related to wombats as well as kangaroos! :)

    • WOW, how WONDERful that you have seen a koala, Laila S! We bet it was a very cool experience! We Wonder where you were when you met your koala friend? :)

  4. We think koalas are cute and cuddly. It surprised us that they are not really bears and that people hunted them for thier fur. We were fascinated by the toxic leaves that only koalas can digest. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    We think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about how to make pottery…

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Bolin’s Class! HOORAY for WONDERing today! Koalas are very fun to learn about, especially since they have super strong stomachs to eat those eucalyptus leaves! Thanks for sharing your Wonder guess for tomorrow! We hope to see you again! :)

  5. I really liked today’s wonder! Koalas are one of my favorite animals, but dogs are my first favorite. I do know a lot about Koalas, but I did not know that when they eat eucalyptus leaves, their digestive system has a special way of working because they have to have a lot of rest in order to digest their food. Thank you for today’s wonder! ;) :)

    • Berkleigh, we’re glad today’s Wonder made you smile! It’s great that you are interested in koalas, they are very cool creatures! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today and WONDERing, too! Have a SUPER day! :)

  6. Wow! I did not know that there are so few koalas left in Austrailia. My mom’s elementary school was the Carter Koalas, so she is in love with koalas. She even found a picture of a koala for her desktop picture on her laptop! I did know that koalas sleep all day and that eucalyptus leaves and oil have toxens in them that only koalas can digest. Also, koala hair is not exactly soft. One time, my family and I went on a “behind the scenes” tour at the Columbus zoo and aquarium, so we went into the koala’s cage with the tour guide and we got to feel some fur that the koalas had shed.

    I think that tomorrow’s wonder will be about the pottery of the ancient Egyptians and what those pieces were used for.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your WONDERful comment with us, Christine! We are so proud of you for connecting our koala Wonder to the experiences you had! The trip to the Columbus Zoo sounds like a great adventure– how cool that you were up close to koala fur! Thanks for describing it to all of us!

      Can’t wait for the next Wonder…. we think you’re on the right track! :)

    • We hope you see a koala up close and personal in the future, Blakeleigh! In the meantime, we’re glad you have learned something new about those cool, fuzzy creatures! :)

    • We’re sorry to hear that koalas aren’t your favorite animal, but we are glad you WONDERed with us today, Danny! :)

    • We are glad to hear that, Danielle! Thanks for sharing your very cool comment, and for doing some WONDERing of your own about koalas! :)

  7. Wow…..we love koala bears….We are still wondering if they are friendly. Can people just hold them and cuddle with them? Do their strong sharp claws hurt people? Are they smart? We would love to go on a field trip to Australia to hold one!

    • We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us, Mrs. Roger’s 5th Grade class! YIPPEE! If koalas feel threatened, they may not be up for cuddling with you. However, we bet you can do some more WONDERing of your own on interacting with koalas! We’d love to learn more! We hope you make it to Australia, too! :)

    • HOORAY, we’re glad you’re here, Monkey Geek! Thanks for sharing your comment… we’ll keep the animal Wonders coming! :)

    • Hi there, Haley! We are glad you’re WONDERing about koalas with us today– but we don’t want you to get hurt, either! We learned that koalas will attack, like many other animals, if they feel threatened. Make sure that you have the help and assistance of a zookeeper or animal expert before you find your own cuddly koala! :)

    • We agree, Wonder Friend! Koalas are very cool animals, and they’re so much fun to Wonder about, too! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  8. Hi Wonderopolis! I just adore koalas so this Wonder is perfect for me!
    I have brought in background knowledge and have learned some new things in this wonder. I never knew that koala babies were born hairless or the size of a jelly bean! One time when I was younger I saw a baby koala in the mom’s pouch and thought instantly on kangaroos because of the pouch. That day I learned that koalas were marsupials like kangaroos.

    I think that the next day’s wonder will be about ancient artifacts and artwork because in the ancient times people created pottery for a living.

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Fitz, we’re so glad you’re back! Koalas are fascinating animals and you’ve done a super job of connecting your background knowledge with our Wonder to expand what you know about koalas!

      We Wonder if you’ve ever seen a koala in person… we hope to see one in the future! They’re so cool! :)

      What a spectacular couple of guesses for the next Wonder, Fitz! Great work! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How cuddly are koalas?
  • Are koalas bears?
  • Are koalas lazy?

Wonder Gallery

KoalaVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to have more fun with koalas? Check out these fun koala crafts you can make with a friend or family member:

Koalas are so cute and cuddly, aren’t they? Here are some more fun videos to watch if you just can’t get enough of koalas!

Still Wondering

To learn even more about koala bears, check out Koala and Joey at National Geographic Education!

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