An opportunity to come face to face with some of Australia’s unique wildlife is a highlight for many overseas visitors. Kangaroos and koalas, being among the most famous, tend to be high on the list and one of the best places close to Perth to see these fascinating marsupials is Yanchep National Park.
Although there is fossil evidence of the koala in the State’s South West until the late Pleistocene age, they are not native to Western Australia. However, they have been on display at Yanchep since the 1930s when a colony originating from Victoria and Queensland was transferred from the Perth Zoo.
A wheelchair accessible raised boardwalk allows people to meander through the open-air sanctuary where the koalas live. For visitors who want to know more about koalas there is also a free koala talk each day at 3.15 pm.
Some koala facts
- The complex digestive system of the koala allows them to specialise on eucalypt leaves as a food source, but the poor digestibility of eucalypt foliage places constraints on the energy budget of koalas.
- Koalas spend up to 20 hours per day sleeping. Most activity occurs at night, but koalas will move during the day if they are disturbed or if they get too hot or cold and need to find a new tree in which to rest.
- Sexual maturity is attained after 3-4 years. Female koalas give birth to single young (rarely twins) at intervals at least a year apart; young develop slowly, spending over 6 months in the pouch and being weaned after a year.
- Koalas have opposable thumbs on their fore paws, allowing them a better grip—essential for climbing smooth barked gum trees. When climbing, koalas leave behind characteristic scratches which remain visible until the bark is shed each year.
- Adult males are larger than adult female koalas, with a broader face and larger black nose and can easily be distinguished by the large scent gland on their chest.
- Adult female koalas have a relatively clean white chest. Their backward facing pouch protects their young from injury while moving around from tree to tree. This is a shared trait with their closest living relatives, wombats, who use this to protect their young from being covered in dirt during when digging burrows.