planting the future

Koala Behaviour

Ripedcogs4This program is a marriage of both dietary & husbandry programs, to create a certain behavior trait of koala, that best suit your institution and the environment in which the koala’s live in. The koala industry has evolved in such a way that over time has separated each part of  the  job description when housing koala’s in captivity (departmentalising each job criteria) believing this reduces business expenditure, especially with larger zoological institution. In fact over time zoological institutions continue to lose valuable information, bond and that instinctive intuition between keeper and animal, which in the long run pays much more financially, with inexperienced staff, and medical expenses.  
In our koala industry and in just a short period of time, the repetitious behavior that has evolved in our industry and the narrowing responsibilities to staff, has caused a loss of valuable information, data and culture behaviour with the ever changing personnel coming in and out the koala Industry. 

Koala Retreat believes this is a critical part of the overall development for a successful Koala Management Program, with a heavy focusing on returning to the old school methods, and planning with purpose.  

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are highly specialised, tree dwelling marsupials. They feed on foliage, mainly Eucalyptus. The distribution of Eucalyptus species varies tremendously between (and within) different Australian states and Koalas have evolved to utilise Eucalyptus trees as their source of food. Koalas have been known to change their eating habitats, usually under stressful conditions to adapt to non eucalyptus trees, such as Melaleucas, Acacia, conifers, Casuarina, Banksia, and Lophostemon.

There are over 600 different types of Eucalyptus, and koalas are known to eat only around ten per cent of that figure. This ten percent is known as their basic food source, and within that basic source only a small number are referred to as their preferred food trees, and when harvested, not all trees will be at optimum palatability (TIP). “Tip” is the term for juvenile leaves at the top of a tree, which turn to yellow reddish in colour. From time to time individual koalas may consume the foliage of other eucalyptus as well as non-eucalyptus species.

Koalas in captivity when given the choice are visibly motivated towards juvenile leaf and appear to crave it in preference to the mature leaf. Koalas have highly efficient digestive systems and therefore can handle a high fibrous diet such as eucalyptus leaves with low nutrient levels.

Leaves can be viewed as consisting of two components – the contents of the cells and the walls that surround these cells. Cell contents are relatively easy to digest and contain most of the proteins and sugars and starch, but to gain access to the cell content, first the cell wall must be ruptured. Cell wall is difficult to digest and consists principally of complex carbohydrates such as cellulose. Young leaves contain proportionally more cell content than cell wall, and so are an important source of energy.

In the wild, koalas have the capacity to move, almost in a circular fashion, around the native flora as the change of seasons takes place. The texture of leaves goes through changes, and koalas can detect these changes, with their sensitive sense of smell.
By offering koalas a wide variety of species of leaves to eat, from different recorded sources, you build up important knowledge about their feeding behaviour and their personal characteristics.