Many people love the cute koala bear. This animal has been made into stuffed toys.all over the world. But it is rare to see this creature alive and moving, because it's gradually becoming extinct.
The koala, like the kangaroo, is actually a marsupial. It contains a small pouch for its young. For this reason, the koala is not related to true bears. In appearance, it is a combination of a monkey and a kangaroo. Koalas are native to Australia, although they are now chiefly found in New South Wales and Queensland. The koala has been hunted since the middle of 20th century for fur and food. Today, anyone fund harming a koala is severely punished by law.
Koalas get their endearing appearance from a covering of gray fur and little tufts of white hair on the sides of their faces. Their eyes are small and black, set in their head. They have large ears and curved noses, but no tail. They use their arms and paws to climb through the trees. Koalas have interesting living habits. They are nocturnal, which means that they move around chiefly at night. Koalas do not stay on the ground. They move from tree to tree, carefully lowering and raising themselves by their paws. Koalas have a surprisingly long life span, which can range from 9 to 20 years, in rare cases.
The Koala is the only mammal, other than the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum, which can survive on a diet of eucalytus leaves. Eucalyptus leaves are very fibrous and low in nutrition, and to most animals are extremely poisonous. To cope with such a diet, nature has equipped koalas with specialised adaptations. A very slow metabolic rate allows koalas to retain food within their digestive system for a relatively long period of time, maximising the amount of energy able to be extracted. At the same time, this slow metabolic rate minimises energy requirements. Koalas also sleep somewhere between 18 and 22 hours each day in order to conserve energy. Koalas eat only the leaves of the eucalyptus, which is another reason that they are now becoming extinct. The eucalyptus tree is disappearing from their natural habitats, fighting a battle against extinction all its own.
Koalas raise their young in a special way. A cub is usually about one inch at birth, where it lays in the mother's pouch. It will stay in the pouch for a little over half a year, during which time the mother carries and feeds the baby. At seven weeks, a tiny koala has a head larger than its body, of about 26 millimetres. By 22 weeks, the baby begins to turn in the pouch and kick, occasionally looking out into the natural world. By 24 weeks, the cub is fully covered with fur, and brain development is complete. Teeth are fully formed At thirty weeks, the cub climbs in and out of the pouch, clinging to the mother's belly in agreeable weather. From 37 weeks onward, the baby is independent of the mother, although it will rarely move more than a metre away from her in its first few weeks. Baby koalas are strongly protected by their mothers, and the familial bond is very strong in the koala world. One can tell if a baby is separated from its mother by tiny squeaks of panic.
Because koala bears are so cute and rare, they are often found in zoos, where their natural environment can be maintained. Although they only wake at night, sometimes it is possible to see them moving around at twilight and early morning. During the day, they mainly sleep in trees, but they are fun to watch, nonetheless.
The largest force to contribute to koala extinction has been hunting. Koala furs are luxurious and warm, and at one point they were in demand all over the world. In 1924, at least 2.1 million skins were exported from Australia alone! The koala's worst enemy besides hunters, is fire. When a tree is inflamed, often they cannot run fast enough to save themselves. Baby koalas are in danger around certain kinds of lizards and eagles, although they are protected today by natural habitats set up for them. It is interesting to note that many koalas die from being hit by cars, and some are even attacked by dogs!Their main form of defense is climbing, but they sometimes try to use their paws.
Koalas are in grave danger also because of other threats. Their source of food is depleting, because the eucalyptus is susceptible to loggers, pharmacists and changing weather. The koala's body chemistry is also delicate, and it is extremely susceptible to diseases and bacteria not native to its environrnent. Finally, a certain strain of venereal disease is killing off many Australian koalas, causing deformity at birth and short life spans.
The war to save koalas has been effective. Their numbers have increased slightly, and actions have been taken to curb contact that will spread venereal deformity. In the next few years, their numbers may rise again, bringing them safely out of the danger zone.
Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them in boxes 1-6 on your answer sheet.
1 Animals that have a small pouch include
A koalas and bears.
B kangaroos and bears
C monkeys and kangaroos
D kangaroos and koalas.
2 Koalas are often seen actively
A climbing trees.
B on the ground.
C during the day
D at night
3 Eucalyptus leaves are
A extremely toxic to all mammals
B only eaten by koalas
C getting rarer and rarer.
D low in fibre.
4 Koalas can only stay awake for
A 18 hours a day.
B between 18 and 22 hours a week.
C between 2 and 6 hours a week
D between 2 and 6 hours a day
5 After 37 weeks, the baby koala
A lives alone but not far from its mother.
B can protect its mother.
C is isolated from its mother.
A. does not need its mother
4. What is the koala's biggest enemy other than people?
B Lizards and eagles
D Forest fire.
Choose THREE letters A-F.
Why are koalas in danger of extinction?
A They are vulnerable to foreign disease.
B Their life span is short
C They are hunted by people.
D Eucalytus leaves are poisonous
E Their birth rate is low.
F Their food source is decreasing