Pandas and Koalas


Pandas and Koalas
Pandas and Koalas
Magnificent Species at Risk
Alison Long
Mr. Goldfarb
You have just boarded a train for an eco-tour. Your first stop is China, where you
hope to see lots of the rare, beautiful plants and animals native to that country. As your
tour group treks through a breath-taking forest you see some scratch marks on the
ground, and on a surrounding tree. “Crunch,” you hear a twig break, and turn just in
time to see a majestic black and white creature crawl into the forest. You recognize it
immediately as the extremely rare giant panda.
Despair sweeps over you as
you realize how close this species is
to extinction. How has mankind let
this fascinating species nearly slip
Appearance and Body
Pandas have a very unique shape and markings. Their markings are one of the
things that people find cute about giant pandas. They have very well-adapted bodies for
the rocky terrain they live in, from their big ears to their sharp claws, and amazing
hands. A panda’s large ears help it to locate and avoid other pandas and predators. A
panda’s slit-shaped eyes help it see whether it’s day or night. Their pupils can shrink to
keep light out, or expand to let light in. This also helps them look for predators and other
pandas. A panda also use its nose to smell for predators or other pandas.
Pandas have a very select diet of only
bamboo. Since bamboo is so tough pandas need
strong, sharp molars to grind up the tough plant. A
panda, although rarely attacked can use its sharp
teeth to defend themselves. Pandas also have a
tough leathery lining on their esophagus to protect
from splinters piercing their body. A panda must
also have strong stomach muscles, or digesting
bamboo would be almost impossible. A pandas
hand also helps them eat bamboo.
A panda’s hand actually has 6 fingers.
They have 5 fingers that go straight up and down
and then I thumb. They use their thumb to help
them grasp bamboo, their favorite food. On their
This panda is showing off its thumb as it
eats some bamboo.
hand they also have rough thick pads. Since pandas spend the majority of their time
crawling around on their paws, the tough, leathery pads help them to not get hurt when
they walk on things like rocks, or wood splinters. Grown pandas have very few natural
enemies, but a panda cub makes a tasty snack for a hungry snow leopard. Pandas
have long, sharp claws to help defend themselves, and their cubs.
All over a panda’s 200 pound body is their beautiful fur. A panda’s unique
markings help them camouflage into the mountainous terrain they live in. Although a
panda looks soft and plush-like, their fur is not very soft. They have an oily substance
on their fur to keep them from getting wet. This is a huge help, since pandas live in
damp conditions, where snow is frequent. Underneath their course, waterproof top-coat,
a panda has shorter, fluffier fur to keep them warm in the cold, frigid winters of China.
The giant panda has a very select diet, they only eat
bamboo. More specifically, they eat the stalks, leaves and
shoots, of only 2 bamboo species, arrow bamboo, and umbrella
bamboo. Bamboo is very low in nutritional value; it is made up
mostly of water and fiber. They get little or no iron, protein and
vitamins. And to satisfy the 200 pound panda’s diet, they must
eat massive amounts, between 23 to 40 pounds a day! If
pandas are very hungry, or there is little bamboo, pandas might
eat flowers, berries, rodents, or fish. But that is not enough to
satisfy a panda, without bamboo pandas starve.
A panda's diet is made up of
umbrella bamboo, and arrow
bamboo. (Pictured above)
In captivity, it would be extremely difficult to provide 40
pounds of bamboo, and that’s only for one panda. Pandas in
zoos are fed a mixture of rice, carrots, honey, bread, and
bamboo. It is much easier to provide and helps the pandas.
The pandas get more vitamins that they need to survive,
vitamins that bamboo does not supply.
Giant pandas are native only to China, and live only in Chinese mountain ranges.
They do not build permanent nests, dens, or burrows.
They use the same den for a maximum of 2 nights.
They live in cold damp places, near lakes, and streams,
and around snow. They must live in ecosystems with
lots of bamboo to support their massive appetites. They
must live in rocky terrain to help them camouflage.
Pandas are very territorial animals. One panda could
occupy up to 25 square miles of land. They mark their
territory with scratched or chewed trees, scratched
ground and droppings.
This map shows where giant pandas
used to live, and where they live
As more people moved to China more houses needed to be built, which meant
more bamboo was cut down. As more bamboo was cut down, giant pandas had to
move away from the valleys they lived in, and go up to the mountains, where there was
still bamboo. Now their habitat is sandwiched between farmlands and rhododendron
forests. Now you will find giant pandas in the Sichuan Province. But a long time ago,
they roamed Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and much of China.
Daily Life
As interesting as pandas are, their daily life is a little boring. Pandas are
nocturnal, which means they are active at night. Pandas are not very social; they try to
make as little contact with other pandas as possible. They are very territorial they don’t
like other pandas coming into their marked territory. Unlike many other animals, pandas
don’t build permanent nests, dens, or
burrows. They will use the same den for a
maximum of 2 nights. They must be moving
all the time to find bamboo to satisfy their
big appetite. In one day a panda can eat
between 23 to 40 pounds of bamboo. In one
day the typical panda spends 14 hours
eating. For the remaining 10 hours in a
panda’s day, they are most likely sleeping. A
panda sleeps in 2 to 4 hour sessions. When
a panda is awake, they are not very active;
they stroll slowly, and eat, not exactly a
thrilling life. But, unlike many other bears,
A panda spends 10 hours a day sleeping.
the giant panda doesn’t hibernate. Bamboo
doesn’t allow them enough fat, they would starve. Anyone who has seen a panda in the
wild is very luck y. Pandas are very shy, and for the most part, and avoid people.
Mating and Young
As you know, pandas are very territorial. That is, except for mating season. The
giant panda mating season only lasts a few weeks a year. When the female is ready to
mate, she will call, and bellow to let males in the area know she is ready to mate. Giant
pandas can begin mating when they are between 4 and 6 years of age. Many times,
there’s fighting between males. It is very important to find a mate with different genetics.
Otherwise, the cub will be weak. As forests are cut down it is getting harder and harder
for pandas to find suitable mates. After mating the male leaves, the mother will raise the
cub alone. After mating, the soon to be mother panda is pregnant for 3 to 5 months.
Many times, she will give birth to twins. She will only care for one; the other is
abandoned, left to die. You might find this cruel, but if there is a shortage of food, it is
impractical to try to raise both cubs. This way, at least one of the cubs will live.
Giant pandas stop mating
at about 12 to 16 years old. A
mother panda cares for her cub
for up to 2 years. So, the average
number of cubs she can have in a
lifetime is about 5.
When the cub is born it is
very small, only one thousandth of
their mother’s weight. (0.001)
They weigh about 4 ounces, and
are about 6 inches long, the size
of a stick of butter. It is born with
its eyes closed and a thin, white
layer of fur. It drinks milk from its
mother to help build up its
When a panda cub is born, it is blind and the size of
strength. At around 1 week, the
a stick of butter.
cub will begin to grow dark
patches around its eyes. These
unmistakable markings will make it look more like a panda. 2 weeks after the black
patches start to grow; the markings will be fully developed. When the panda cub is 4
weeks old, its mother will take it outside for the first time. Since the cub is too young to
maneuver on its own, its mother will carry it in her hand and walk on her knuckles. This
prevents the cub from being pounded in to the ground with every step its mother takes.
Then at around 6 weeks, the cub will begin to eat bamboo, the food it will live on
for the rest of its life. Also at around 6 weeks the panda cub’s eyes will open. After that,
the cub will learn to crawl. 6 weeks is a very important milestone for a panda cub
growing up.
At 12 weeks, just 6 weeks after the cub has begun to crawl, the panda cub is
walking with ease. The next big milestone in a panda’s life is 2 years. That is when the
panda will move out on its own, away from mom. The cub will have to use all the
survival skills it has learned as a cub to go out and live on its own.
There are 2 primary reasons behind why pandas are endangered. The first
reason is things humans do to cause endangerment. Pandas have very beautiful
habitats, and of course, humans want to see these places, and all the beauty of China.
So lots of tourists come, and create jobs. One of these jobs is tour guides. If the tour
guide is not certified, the tour guide could harm wildlife, including, or impacting pandas.
Another job tourists create is builders. The tourists need more roads, smoother roads,
hotels, and restaurants built.
This creates pollution in streams, lakes, ponds, and air; pollution also destroys
wildlife. I find it ironic that tourists come to see the wildlife, but end up hurting it instead.
Another reason pandas are endangered is poaching. Before pandas were so
rare they were poached freely. Their skins would be given to rulers, and other powerful
people as gifts. Their hides are very warm, beautiful, and waterproof. This makes it
perfect for bedding, and coats At one time pandas were
even poached for museums and research. Nowadays,
pandas are still poached, but at much lower numbers. 1
reason people still poach pandas is for sport. Some people
think it’s cool to own a stuffed panda. But there’s nothing
cool about killing an endangered species, it’s against the
law! Another reason is panda skins are very valuable. A
poor farmer can sell a panda skin for several thousand
dollars, that can be very tempting.
The primary reason pandas are endangered is
habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation. If people cut down
lots of bamboo, the giant panda can starve. As more
people cut down trees, they create different mini forests
that are isolated from other forests. This is called habitat
fragmentation. A long time ago pandas could migrate to
different forests, while staying hidden, they don’t like wide
open places. Now, roads, farms, and train tracks stand in pandas’ way. One major
problem caused by habitat fragmentation is starvation, but it proposes another serious.
A panda cub needs a mix of genes. If its mom and dad are related, the cub
becomes more susceptible to diseases. If a female panda mates with a male in the
same area, they have a better chance of having a cub without a variety of genes.
Pandas need to be able to move around to find suitable mates. Humans need to
remember, with less than 1,600 giant pandas left in the world, each one counts.
Even though humans are mostly responsible for the giant panda’s
endangerment, nature is also helping. Every few years, bamboo, the only food pandas
eat flowers. That means the bamboo plant grows flowers, then drops seeds, and dies.
Then the seeds the bamboo dropped will grow back. But that can take a while, and
pandas can’t just stop eating. So if an isolated area of bamboo all flower at the same
time, the pandas in that area could starve.
Also, predators threaten the panda species. A fullgrown panda isn’t easy prey, but a panda cub is. Snow
leopards and wolves are a panda cub’s fiercest predators
(next to humans). Also, primary food sources that a
panda’s predator usually relies on are becoming scarce.
So, the predators are hungrier than ever. Severe weather
can harm pandas as well. Floods can damage bamboo.
Since pandas live in such cold places, climate changes
are hard for pandas; they are not adapted to the rising
temperatures. Global warming hurts pandas.
A snow leopard is a major threat to
young pandas.
When bamboo is cut down,
pandas' habitat and source
of food shrink.
Another reason pandas are endangered is they breed slowly. Unlike animals like
fish, and frogs, which lay thousands of eggs at once, a panda only has 1 cub at a time.
Panda cubs don’t begin to breed until they are 4 years old. And a mother panda raises
her cub for about 2 years. Even though a panda can have up to 5 cubs in a lifetime,
they can also have as few as 2 or 3.
Zoos and Helping
Many people are trying to help pandas.
They are starting reserves, conducting studies,
making laws, getting publicity, and breeding
pandas in captivity. One of the most famous
reserves for pandas is the Wolong Reserve.
The Wolong Reserve is a safe place where
pandas can live, reproduce, and learn. Some of
the scientists that work at the reserve live there,
also. They give the pandas love, care, and
safety. Many times at a reserve studies will be
At the Wolong Reserve panda cubs learn survival skills
while playing.
done. Usually, if a mother panda gives birth to
twins, she only cares for one, the other dies.
At the Wolong Reserve, the scientists care for
the one that would be abandoned. But, they do switch the cubs out so they each get
time with their mother and the scientists. Then, the scientists, with the help of mom,
train the cubs. At the reserve they have a contraption that looks like a playground. On
the playground, the cubs will learn survival skill, like climbing, hanging, dangling, and so
much more. The pandas are very playful, to them, everything is a toy. This can be very
entertaining so, visitors are allowed to watch. There are restricted areas where visitors
can watch the cubs being nursed, and the cubs playing. Some of the cubs will stay at
the reserve for studies, and to reproduce. After about 1 or 2 years, some of the cubs will
be released into the wild, to reproduce, and to use all of the valuable survival skills they
have learned at the reserve.
Many studies are done to help pandas; mostly they are conducted in reserves.
To help scientists understand pandas better, they need to know all about pandas’
habitat, diet, movements, and behavior. For example, to help deal with bamboo
flowerings, scientists are developing a special fertilizer to help the bamboo grow back
quicker. And more people are working to plant bamboo, so it won’t all flower at the
same time. Then the pandas will have something to survive on while the other bamboo
grows back. Scientists also track pandas. They use footprints, chewed bamboo,
scratches on trees and on the ground, and dropping to help them find pandas. After the
scientists do find a panda, they put it to sleep shortly. Then, they can put a tracking
device on them, it works like a GPS. These studies will help to make the giant panda’s
habitat better, and more customized to their needs, in the wild, and in captivity.
To even further discourage people to hurt giant pandas, several laws have been
made, or revised to protect them. There is a rule that summarizes all the things you
shouldn’t do, because they hurt pandas. They are called the 5 nos. They are no forest
fires, no cutting trees, no hunting, no plowing, and no damaging forest regrowth.
One cause of panda’s endangerment is poaching. Poaching pandas is now
illegal. In 1987, the punishment in China, if you poached a panda, or was caught with a
panda skin, was 20 years in jail. Now, as pandas’ numbers are dwindling more and
more the law has become more serious. You can go to jail for life, or even get a death
sentence. Many people argue that a death sentence is too harsh. They think people will
hesitate more if they know turning someone in could get them killed.
Another reason pandas are endangered is tourism and habitat loss. Now, there is
a thing called ecotourism, where people can go on tours without hurting wildlife, or the
environment. They are led by a certified ranger. But, ecotourism doesn’t do anything
about the restaurants, hotels, or roads that are being built. Logging in protected areas is
also banned. New ways to log without hurting wildlife, or the environment are being
Two other ways to help pandas are zoos and publicity. Publicity means to get the
word out, and make people notice something. Today there are about 140 pandas in
captivity. But, pandas don’t breed as well in captivity as they do in the wild. One reason
for that is pandas need a choice of mates. If the cub doesn’t get a mix of genes it is
much weaker than it would be with a variety of genes. Another reason is scientists think
male pandas suffer from stress in captivity. That could contribute to the problem of slow
breeding in captivity. A solution to slow breeding is artificial insemination. That is when
cells from a male giant panda are injected into the female giant panda. That way, cells
can be shipped from zoo to zoo, or even country to country! Then there is a mix of
genes, and a healthy cub.
Publicity also helps pandas. The more people know how desperately the giant
panda needs help, the more of a priority it will become. In China, the only country with
giant pandas, the government will often times educate people about pandas. They
believe if people are more aware of the consequences they will be less likely to harm
giant pandas. Also, in schools, teachers teach school children about giant pandas.
Then, hopefully the next generation will be less likely to hurt giant pandas. Farmers are
encouraged to feed pandas that wander on to their farms, instead of shooing them
away, or shooting them. You can even get a cash reward for helping pandas. And the
government is trying to set up power lines in places that usually use firewood. They
hope this will cut down on illegal
logging and habitat loss.
Another organization that is a
tremendous help is the World
Wildlife Fund. (WWF) Their logo
is a panda, now pandas are one
This picture shows how the WWF's logo has changed over the
of the most recognizable animals. It has helped to get people educated and concerned.
They have panda counts, to track the species progress. You can even “adopt” a panda.
You don’t get to keep it in your house, or backyard, you sponsor it. When you adopt a
panda you send money into the WWF and get a small plush panda, some pictures, and
Closest Relation
Many people argue about what the giant panda’s closest relation.
Is it a raccoon? Many people believe that the giant panda’s closest relation is the
raccoon. The red panda (or the lesser panda) used to be thought of as the giant
panda’s closest living ancestor. Then scientists found that the red panda was actually a
raccoon, many people argued that the giant panda must also be a raccoon. Also, a
raccoon’s teeth, skull, and forepaw’s are similar to a giant panda’s.
Is it a cat? Pandas have slit-shaped eyes, and pads on their paws, just like cats
do. Also, their Chinese name is daxiongmao, which means large bear cat. And, the
giant panda’s scientific name, ailuropoda melanoleuca means black and white cat foot.
No, it’s a bear! Recent studies prove that giant pandas belong to the bear family. Giant
pandas have the same size and
shape as bears do. Also, a
newborn panda cub looks similar
to other bear newborns. A giant
panda’s closest bear relation is
the spectacled bear.
This is a spectacled bear, the giant panda's closest relation.
You have just finished your ecotour in China. Next you are going to Australia, the
continent with the most marsupials. You hope to find kangaroos, wallabies, and of
course, koalas.
As you are hiking through a serene forest in Australia, a familiar smell surrounds
you. You recognize the smell as cough drops, and you look around to see where it is
coming from. “Waa,” you hear a baby cry, and look up into the trees.
“Aww,” you sigh, it’s a baby koala on its
mother’s back. It seems to be crying for food.
Later when you are researching these
adorable marsupials, you find they are on the
brink of endangerment. And, worst of all, it’s
mostly the human race’s fault. Who could
possibly harm this lovable species?
Pandas and koalas are both in need of
help. We could help them in many of the same
ways, or we could lose these magnificent creatures forever.
Appearance and Body
Koalas have very odd and recognizable bodies. They might look strange, but
their bodies are one of their best survival tools. There are 3 species of koalas; they all
live in Australia. They are the Victorian, the New South Wales, and the Queensland.
The largest is the Victorian. The females weigh in at 19 pounds, and the males weigh
about 27 pounds. Their thick brown or gray fur helps them stay warm in southern
Australia. The most recognizable is the Queensland. They have short gray or brown fur
to help them stay cool in warm northern Australia weather. They are also the smallest,
only up to 14 pounds. The New South
Wales koala is smaller than the
Victorian, with shaggier ears the
Queensland. They live southern
Australia, with thick fur to keep them
warm. All koalas’ brown or gray fur
helps them to camouflage.
Koalas are truly fascinating
animals, from their giant ears, to their
weird back paws. Their large shaggy
ears have tufts of fur in front of them
From left to right, this is the Victorian koala, the Queensland
that are lighter than the fur on the rest
koala, and the New South Wales koala.
of its body. Their ears help them to
hear predators, or other koalas that are
nearby. Their eyes are small,
compared to the size of their head. Koalas are nocturnal, and don’t move around very
frequently or quickly, so good eye sight is not a necessity. Right in the middle of a
koala’s face is a large hairless nose. Their nose helps them in many important ways.
Koalas don’t like sharing their tree with other koalas, so koalas use their noses to sniff
out other koalas. They also use their nose to smell predators.
A koala’s body also helps them while eating. For example, their nose also comes
in handy at mealtime. Younger eucalyptus leaves (a koala’s diet) contain poison. A
koala can smell out the poison. Eucalyptus leaves are hard to chew, they are very
tough. Because of this, koalas need strong jaw muscles to grind up the leaves.
As you can see, koalas are interesting animals, including their stomachs. On a
matured female koala’s stomach you will find a pouch. They use their pouch to hold
their young after birth, while the joey is still developing. Their pouch faces down towards
their legs, contrary to a kangaroo’s pouch. On a male koala’s stomach, there is a scent
gland. They use this to mark territory; it tells other koala’s to keep out. During mating
season, he will use his scent gland to attract females. Koalas spend most of their lives
climbing in trees. To help them climb all day, they have very strong muscular arms, and
very sharp claws. They are also tailless. When they sit in trees, it would be
uncomfortable to be sitting on a big lump.
A koala also has very peculiar hands. On a koala’s front paw, they have 3
fingers, and 2 “thumbs.” They use their front paws to grasp leaves and to climb. On their
back paws, they have 2 fingers, then 2 fingers fused together, and a “thumb.” They use
their 2 fused fingers to comb their fur. On a koala’s hands and feet, they have thick
rough pads. They help to cushion any falls, and to grip tree bark. If a koala is provoked,
it will use its strong sharp
claws to attack. Its sharp
claws also help it to
Koalas are one of the fussiest eaters. The koala only eats the leaves, flowers,
young shoots, and bark of the eucalyptus tree. There are between 600 to 800
specimens of eucalyptus, the koala only eats about 50. And koalas only love bout 5
Eucalyptus is not very nutritious. It is made mostly of water.
It doesn’t give koalas much energy, so they must eat a lot. A
koala can spend up to 4 hours eating a day, and can eat up to 3
pounds of eucalyptus! Since eucalyptus is mostly water koalas
rarely or never have to drink water.
Some eucalyptus trees can be poisonous, in other trees;
the younger leaves might contain high levels of poison. They will
lose most of the poison as they mature. Non-poison trees can
even change to poisonous trees, or vice versa. How in the world
A koala eats
eucalyptus for about 4 do koalas keep straight which trees are poisonous, and which are
safe to eat? They don’t have to. Their amazing sense of smell can
hours a day, and will
eat about 3 pounds of smell the poison in the leaves.
Koalas are the one of the very few animals that eats this
poisonous tree. A koala’s body is also adapted to help them
digest the eucalyptus. They have strong jaws and teeth to help them grind up the tough
plant. Then, they have special bacteria in their stomach to help them break down the
poison in the eucalyptus. They also have lots of storage in their body, like their fat
Koalas are only native to Australia, more specifically mostly the eastern coast.
They live in a variety of terrains, from mountains, to flatlands, and north, to south. They
just need eucalyptus. Koalas don’t build nests, dens, or burrows; they don’t even claim
a tree as their permanent home. They move from eucalyptus tree, to eucalyptus tree.
They rarely spend time on the ground. The average koala needs from 15 to 20
eucalyptus leaves to survive. If a koala does need to move to another tree, they will
walk out to the edge of a tree branch until it tilts enough to create a bridge to a nearby
tree, then they will leap the remaining distance to continue munching. But, as more
trees get cut down, koalas need to travel a farther distance to find eucalyptus trees.
They must dismount, and then run for their life to another tree. Sometimes, they might
even have to swim; luckily koalas are
strong on land, and in water. But, the
longer the distance they have to run, the
better chance predators can catch them. If
a koala is caught by a predator, it must
fight with its claws.
Koalas are very territorial animals. It
is rare to see 2 koalas in a tree, unless they
This shows a koala leaping from tree to tree.
are a mother and her baby, or it’s mating season. Koalas used to roam over much of the
island of Australia. But, as more trees are cut down, and more houses are built, their
living spaces have dropped drastically.
Daily Life
As fascinating as koalas are, their daily life can seem far from extraordinary. A
koala is nocturnal, which means they are awake at night. The majority of a koala day is
spent eating and sleeping. A koala can spend 16 to 20 hours sleeping in just one day!
Unlike humans, koalas sleep in a vertical position. They will nestle their neck into a fork
in the tree, and rest on the tough skin under their chin. A koala can sleep in pretty much
any position, even with a leaf hanging out of their mouth.
When a koala isn’t sleeping, they’re probably eating a
eucalyptus tree. It is rare to see koalas out of trees. The only time
a koala will leave a tree is if they have eaten all the good leaves
from the tree they are in and need to relocate to a new tree. Even
then koalas try not to go on the ground. If the trees are close
enough, a koala might leap to the nearest branch on another tree.
They do this by walking out onto a branch until their weight pushes
the branch into an arch. This creates a bridge for them to walk
Koalas avoid the ground so much because on the ground
they have many more predators. And a young koala is easy prey.
These predators include dingoes, foxes, pythons, and birds. It is
This koala is resting on easier for a bird to spot a koala
the thick skin of its neck on the ground, then to spot a
koala in a tree. Although koalas
while it rests.
avoid the ground and water they
are not necessarily clumsy
when they aren’t in trees. Koalas are very fast
sprinters, and strong swimmers. They need to have
those skills in order to escape from a dingo. If a
predator does catch up to a koala, a koala will use its
claws to defend itself.
Koalas are very quick on the ground, as well
as in trees.
Mating and Young
Most of the year koalas have a lazy, repetitive lifestyle. But during mating
season, koalas are far more active. For koalas, mating season takes place between
September and March, summertime in Australia. Mating season is also a rare time
when koalas interact with each other.
Before koalas mate, they must find another koala to
mate with. To attract a female, the male will roar or bellow.
People who have heard these noises say it sounds like a
pig, a snore, a sneeze, or the tick of a clock. The female
then replies with a roar, or bellow that is higher pitched,
and heard less often. Many times, fights will break out
between males. To mark their territory, males will rub their
scent gland on trees to tell other koalas to keep out and
This koala is calling out to potential
stay away. The average female koala will start to breed at
around 3 or 4 years, the average male koala will begin to
mate at about 2 years.
When the baby koala, (called a joey) is born 35 days after mating, it looks like a
pink, wet jellybean. The mother will raise the joey alone. It is born
hairless, earless and blind, with only stumps for back legs, but fully
developed front legs. It will need its front legs to pull itself out of its
mother’s pouch. But, it has a strong sense of smell and touch. If the joey
does not make it into its mother’s pouch immediately after birth, it will die.
While the joey is in its mother’s pouch, which she washed out with an
anti-bacterial substance, it will drink milk for 6 or 7 months while it grows
fur and ears, its eyes open, and its back legs develop. When the joey is
ready to see the world, it will start eating pap. Pap is a slimy, green
substance of pre-digested eucalyptus from its mother. It is full of
When a koala
nutrients, and gives the joey the smell and taste of the food it will be
is born it is the
eating for the rest of its life. That is why having a downward facing pouch size of a
is perfect for koalas.
jellybean. It is
At 8 months the joey is ready to leave its mother’s pouch. At first
earless, and
the joey is afraid to leave, but soon will climb onto its mother’s stomach.
blind, with
As he gets older the joey will make the transition to its mother’s back.
Being on mom’s back is more comfortable, when she jumps from tree, to only stumps
tree she doesn’t have to worry about poking her joey with a stump. When for back legs.
the joey turns 1 year old, it is ready to begin eating solid eucalyptus leaves! Also at
around the 1 year mark, the joey will move out on its own. It has been spending
increasing amounts of time on its own, and is now ready to move out.
Females that are healthy with a good supply of food can give birth to and care for
1 joey a year; otherwise she will give birth to 1 joey every 2 to 3 years. In the wild koalas
can live up to 10 years, in captivity they can live up to 15 years.
Koalas’ numbers do not technically make them an endangered species, but their
numbers are still far lower than they should be. One reason why koala numbers are so
low is because of humans. Humans play a big part in why koalas are so vulnerable.
One big threat is poaching in 1880 Europeans who settled Australia used koala fur to
make coats and blankets. Since koalas have such beautiful fur, they are a big target for
poachers. Just between 1919 and 1924, eight million koalas were killed. In just 1 year,
two million koala skins were shipped to just Alaska. Poachers are still a threat today.
People have also brought danger to koalas. Dogs, and foxes were brought to Australia,
they are 2 of the koalas’ main predators.
Another big reason koalas are endangered is habitat loss. A koala’s home and
food source is the eucalyptus tree. The eucalyptus tree isn’t a protected tree. It is
destroyed to make room for farms, houses, offices, crops, and to make into lumber.
When the trees are cut down, other groves of trees are isolated. If a koala has run out of
non-poisonous leaves, and needs to go to another grove, it has to travel a longer
distance. That gives predators a
better chance of killing koalas.
And if the koala has to cross a
street, they could get hit by a
car. In the early 20th century
there were only a few thousand
koalas, where there once were
millions. In 1920 people began
to realize this, and they wanted
laws. But the laws weren’t very
strict, or well-enforced. Today
there are about 100,000 wild
koalas. They teeter between
rare and common. Maybe if
people had realized earlier,
koalas would be thriving.
Although people play a
This picture shows how outrageous eucalyptus logging is.
big part in koalas’ numbers
dropping, nature is also partly to blame. In nature there are diseases. There is a disease
that can threaten koala population. It is called Chlamydia. Chlamydia causes females to
not be able to have babies, and blindness. Natural
disasters are also a problem to koalas. Drought and
wildfire destroy eucalyptus trees. So the koalas
living in those trees must leave quickly, and find
new, safe homes. Brushfire can kill or injure koalas.
Of course, koalas also have natural predators,
snakes, owls, dingoes, foxes, and goannas threaten
koala young.
Koalas are vulnerable in half of the places
they live, and rare in another.
The goanna, a koala predator, is a large
Australian lizard.
Helping and Zoos
Before people can save the koala they must know everything about them. To do
this, scientists set up studies. Scientists need to know all about a koala’s movement,
behavior, and the reasons behind them. Before they can fix anything, they need to know
what to fix, and how to fix it. So, scientists will track koalas and put bands on them.
These bands act as tracking devices to tell the scientists where the koalas are.
Scientists are also trying to learn more about a koala’s diet, habitat, and population. For
example, they are trying to figure out why eucalyptus trees can turn from non-poisonous
to poisonous, and how to stop that from happening.
To help boost koala numbers even more there are laws and reserves protecting
koalas. In 1927, President Herbert Hoover made it illegal to have koala skins shipped to
the USA. In the 1930s the koala became a protected species. That means it is illegal to
hunt and kill koalas. In 1980 live exportation of koalas was made illegal.
Sanctuaries and reserves are also a big help to recover
koala numbers. Sanctuaries and reserves are safe places
where a species can thrive without threats. Some well-known
sanctuaries are the Sydney Sanctuary, and the Lone Pine
Sanctuary. The government of Australia sometimes will set up
reserves, and then the Australia Koala Foundation, (AFK)
manages it. The AFK will sell toy koalas and other trinkets to
raise money. Kangaroo Island is an island off the coast of
Australia. It is the safest place for wild koalas. In New South
Wales they have a koala hospital. They care for up to 250 sick
or injured koalas a year.
Zoos are great places to have endangered species.
They provide a safe place for the species to live, and educate
humans about that species they are seeing.
In zoos koalas need very specific living conditions. They
need the correct habitat, diet, and specimen of eucalyptus.
In Australia there are koala crossing
That can be very complicated but after many years, most zoos signs to warn drivers of koalas that
have perfected the koalas’ living conditions.
might be crossing the street.
Zoos also provide publicity. But, zoos aren’t the only way to get an endangered
species publicity. Even educating someone helps. The more people are educated, the
better chances koalas have. Koalas are very popular creatures, with their adorable
cuddly appearance; many people are attracted to them. Another reason why koalas are
so popular is their ability to move and act like humans.
They can hug like a person, and cry just like a human baby.
Also, Koalas are included in many television Programs.
There are many cartoons, like “The Koala Brothers” on
Disney Channel. They are even in commercials. A koala is
the spokesperson for an Australian travel agency called Qantas. Once, they were even
printed on coins. Koalas are now one of the most recognizable symbols of Australia.
The 3 main ways pandas and koalas are similar is their reasons for
endangerment, their well-adapted bodies, and their lifestyles.
Koalas and pandas share many of the same reasons for endangerment. Their fur
has attracted many poachers. Poachers have killed over 8 million koalas, and many
pandas. Habitat loss has played a huge part on getting pandas and koalas on the
protected species list. Their habitat has been destroyed for buildings, offices, and
lumber. Habitat loss has also hurt panda mating, and increased koalas’ chance of being
caught by a predator. Even their diets put them in danger. If eucalyptus or bamboo
became extinct pandas and koalas would have nothing to eat. Global warming also
affects these species. Their bodies are well-adapted to the climate they’ve had for
years. It is humans who are creating global warming.
Pandas and koalas also share the trait of well-adapted bodies. Depending on
where in Australia you are, koalas will look different. Pandas have slit-shaped eyes, to
help them see in the dark, they are perfect for a nocturnal lifestyle.
Pandas and koalas also have similar lifestyles. They spend the majority of their
life eating and sleeping. And the mother raises the cub/joey alone in both situations.
Just by looking at them, you might think that pandas and koalas are on different
ends of the spectrum, but they share more similarities then you would think.
After you realize these animals are endangered you think, “What can I do?” Then
you think, “Someone else will save the pandas and koalas. Anyway, I’m not a scientist. I
couldn’t do anything important anyway.” That isn’t true. You can’t always count on
someone else to save the day. If everyone thought someone else would solve all the
problems, nothing would get done. Sure, one person can’t do it all, and some things
have to be left for the scientists, but every little thing counts. Even by educating others,
you are making a difference. You can’t force people to help, but you can educate them,
and try to get them interested. Global warming hurts both species. After all if someone
did something small, like unplugged something when it wasn’t being used, imagine what
could happen.
Works Cited
Markle, Sandra How Many Baby Pandas? New York: Walker and Company, 2009
Green, Carl R. The Giant Panda Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers Inc.,
Horton, Casey. Endangered! Bears Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish
Corporation, 1996
Ryder, Joanne. Panda Kindergarten New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2009
Claybourne, Anna. Giant Pandas in Danger of Extinction Chicago, Illinois: Heinemann
Library, 2005
Bright, Micheal. Giant Panda New York, New York: Aladdin Books Ltd, 1989
MacLeod, Elizabeth. Koalas Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Limited, 1989
Sohn, Emily. Koalas Up Close and Personal Science Service Incorporated, 2007
Hunt, Patricia. Koalas New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1980
Swan, Erin P. Kangaroos and Koalas What They Have in Common New York: Franklin
Watts, 200
Bodden, Valerie. Koalas Mankota, Minnesota: Creative Education, 2009
Hanel, Rachel. Koalas Mankota, Minnesota: Creative Education, 2009
Oftinski, Steven. Koalas Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008
Collard III, Sneed B. Pocket Babies and other Marsupials Plain City, Ohio: Darby Creek
Publishing, 2007
Picture Works Cited
Panda Cub
Panda on Log
Spectacled Bear
Panda in Wild
Panda Range Map
Panda Eating
Arrow Bamboo
Sleeping Panda
Snow Leopard
Bamboo Logs
Pandas at Wolong Reserve
WWF Through the Years
Koala Baby and Mommy
Koala Paw
Queensland Koala
New South Wales Koala
Victorian Koala
Koala Eating
Koala Leaping
Koala Sleeping
Running Koala
Yelling Koala
Newborn Koala
Koala joey and mom
Koala Joey
Eucalyptus Logging
Koala Crossing Sign
The Koala Brothers