10 March 2012
Crikey it's that time of the year again.... Time to start seeing little baby koalas! The breeding season for koalas in Queensland runs from September to March with reports of joeys being born as late as April. Breeding for koalas is not quite what you would think - it is quick, rough and once mated the male and female have nothing to do with each other again.
A baby koala is called a joey and is born after only 34-36 days gestation. When born the joey is under-developed and only the size of a jelly bean weighing in at approximately 2grams. At birth the joey makes its way from the mothers' cloaca to the pouch where it will attach itself to one of the two teats, the joey will remain in the pouch for approximately the next 6 months. During this time the joey needs to do a lot of growing and developing before it will start to poke its head out of the pouch. At this stage the young koala starts to eat pap from the mother's cloaca. Pap is vital to a joey koala as it contains important bacteria which are needed for them to digest the toxins found in Eucalyptus leaves.
At around 6 months old the joey koala will start to make its way to its mothers back where it will get around with mum for the next few months, which is when it will also start to make the transition to eating leaves, starting with the more mature leaves before moving towards the yummy fresh tip.
By the time the joey reaches 12 -14 months old they will start to venture further and further away from mum before becoming completely independent at approximately 18 months. By around 2 years old the joey is completely independent, sexually mature and able to breed.
Here at the zoo we are very lucky to have a high success rate for breeding our koalas. From this season alone we have had 9 joeys born and hopefully another 1 or 2 on the way. So in a few months time we may have lots of cute little joeys getting about on mum's back.