Dry forest and woodland fauna have a wide diversity, and rainfall is frequent in good seasons. Wildlife in these areas experience regular drought and bushfires but they show resilience and have recovered after such catastrophic events with occasional above-average rainfall.
Dry forest and woodland areas occupy a niche in between deserts and rainforests or coastal regions. It provides woodland creatures with food, water, and shelter from floor litter and logs to grassy understories and tree-top apartments.
Koalas are our most iconic native mammal which represent Australia across the world. Koalas are arboreal, meaning they eat, sleep, and play in the tree tops. They have a slow metabolism to save energy and can sleep for up to 20 hours a day.
They live almost entirely on eucalypt leaves which are toxic to most animals. These leaves are tough to digest and the tree-dwelling marsupial can only absorb 25% of its nutrients, so they need to eat up to 1kg of leaves per night. Koalas prefer to munch on new growth which is tender and juicy. All the moisture they need is received through the leaves except in drought when the leaves tend to wither.
They are primarily nocturnal and only descend to the ground to swap trees or switch habitats. Each adult koala has several home trees within its territorial range. Males have scent glands on their chests that rub against trees to mark their territory.
Koalas are seasonal breeders, displaying courtship behaviours from spring to autumn. Since they are not sociable creatures, mating season is the only time they tolerate each other’s company. Males call females in season by belching or bellowing to them, communicating their readiness to breed.
Much like the kangaroo, a koala joey, is as tiny as a jelly bean, and is born 35 days after coupling. The joey uses its sense of touch and smell to crawl towards the mother’s pouch where it’ll stay attached to a teat for about 13 weeks. Joey is born blind and naked.
Before joeys can eat gum leaves, they feed on their mother’s droppings known as pap which contains special micro-organisms that will help the joey digest eucalypt leaves. Joeys are independent by their first birthday.
This month, and through Spring, Joeys will be embarking on their first solo adventures and mature koalas are searching for partners.
Take time to know them, their habitat, and their struggles. Celebrate Koala Day on the 30th of September by sighting a Koala and registering it on the Koala Map, planting a gum to expand and protect their home, or adopting a fuzzy koala.
Table of Contents
Watch a Koala video from Free School
Introduce marsupials with this video from SciShow Kids.
Read the Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Read Koala by Claire Saxby.
Discuss the characteristics of marsupials
Investigate marsupials with Answers in Genesis.
Explore your bushland for mammals. Search in daylight for tracks, scats, and other signs of animal activity.
Search at night with a torch for nocturnal creatures. Listen for sounds.
Record your findings in a nature journal. Write notes and draw pictures of your encounters.
Poem: On the Night Train by Henry Lawson
Picture Study: Koalas Reaching Out by Elizabeth Cogley
Food Chains and Webs with Free School.
Visit an animal park or zoo to observe bushland creatures.
Choose one or two animals to observe carefully. What do they look like? What colour is their fur? What
are their colourations? How many fingers? Does it have a tail? How does it behave? What does it eat? Where will it shelter? What do their tracks and scats look like?
Journal your observations and questions in your nature notebook. Include illustrations of your subject.
And of course, give a koala a hug!
Alternatively, take a virtual field trip with Brave Wilderness. Periodically, pause the video to enter your observations into your nature journal.
Download Hugly Koala Worksheets
Download a koala facemask at Bush Heritage.
Sing: Marsupial Sing A Long
Interview a Zoologist or watch this video.
This koala nature study lesson is an excerpt from the Dry Forests and Woodlands Biome Nature Study Series.