Koalas live in forests, open woodland and along watercourses where food trees are available. They have adapted to an urban lifestyle where habitat has been partially cleared. In Victoria they have adapted to living in blue gum plantations due to loss of all other habitat. Their distribution starts west of Cairns in North Queensland, all the way down to South Australia along the coastal side of mountain ranges. Koala populations are in rapid decline, particularly in SE Queensland and local extinctions are now frequent.
Although koalas are considered arboreal, or tree dwelling animals, they will walk on the ground to reach another tree. They rarely come to the ground to drink as the moisture they need usually comes from their diet of leaves. However, climate change and the increasing incidence of droughts has affected the water content in leaf, often requiring them to use dams, creeks and even puddles on roads to access water. On the ground they are vulnerable and can only use short bursts of speed to escape threats such as dogs, cars or people.
Interesting fact: When the temperature climbs koalas get cool. Trees have their own micro climate and trunks can be up to 8c lower in temperature than the surrounding hot air. The fur on a koala’s tummy is relatively thin so as a way to lower body temperature they sprawl on a branch, tummy down, and dangle their limbs to either side; more efficient than panting or licking and a great way to catch breezes and conserve moisture.