Koalas have been around for 30 million years and have changed little over that time, although their environment has altered dramatically.Their history is inextricably linked to that of the aboriginals who feature them in many Dreamtime stories going back 40,000 years. These revered stories feature closely observed behaviour and the koala is always given iconic status.
The scientific name for the koala is Phascolarctos cinereus meaning “pouched bear”, coined by early European naturalists who spotted koalas in the Blue Mountains. However koalas are not bears but marsupials, a subclass of mammals. They belong to a unique family group (Phascolarctidae) and only live in Eastern and Southern Australia. They are utterly unique and different to any other marsupial in this family.
The koala’s closest relative is the wombat.
Interesting fact: The word “koala” is thought to mean “no drink” in aboriginal language due to early observations that koalas did not leave their trees for water.