How to spot koalas in the wild

Koala facts


Image credit: Getty Images

The koala is an iconic Australian marsupial. They have thick fur which can be brown or grey in colour, large ears, a black nose and no tail.

Koalas are well adapted for life in the trees, with sharp claws for climbing.

They can be found mostly across the eastern states of Australia.

The adult males weigh between 6-12kg and females between 5-8kg. During breeding, males make loud snarling coughs and bellows.

Koalas have a specialised diet, eating only a few of Australia’s 600 types of eucalyptus tree species and showing strong personal preferences for specific types of eucalypt leaves.

Naturally solitary animals, koalas live within a network of overlapping home ranges, which allows contact between males and females for mating.


Koala in the wild

Credit: NOMADasaurus

What is the problem with koala selfies?

Koalas are stressed when constantly surrounded by people in close encounters at theme parks and zoos. They display ‘visitor-vigilant’ behaviours like avoiding visitors by trying to climb up and away from people. Or keeping their eyes wide and ears pricked.

In the wild, koalas sleep up to 20 hours a day to conserve energy after eating difficult-to-digest eucalypt leaves. But some captive close encounters force them to be awake and active for hours on end.

Most visitors to wildlife entertainment venues love koalas or want to learn more about them. But they may not know about the stress and suffering wild animals like koalas endure when they are being cuddled or held for a photo.

Other threats

It's heartbreaking to see how koala populations are increasingly affected by disease, deforestation and habitat destruction.

Queensland is a major deforestation hotspot and in just the last decade, tree clearing has tripled in NSW, leaving important koala habitats fragmented or destroyed.

With no trees to go to, koalas are exposed to the dangers of the ground and at risk of being hit by cars, attacked by dogs, and falling ill from stress-induced diseases.

Koalas are now endangered in NSW, QLD and the ACT, and their numbers keep declining.

Many koala populations are also vulnerable to the infectious disease Chlamydia, which can cause blindness and reproductive tract infections.

A koala at Hunter Wildlife
Koala linbreaker

How you can help

Many wildlife entertainment venues and theme parks in Queensland like Australia Zoo and Dreamworld offer koala “cuddle” experiences for photos. Reducing visitor demand for cruel koala cuddles is vital to stop wild koalas being bred in captivity for our entertainment and profit.

Call on the Queensland Premier, Annastacia PaƂaszczuk, to join other states in banning cruel koala encounters, including koala cuddles and selfies.

Add your voice

Koala cuddles at Lone Pine, Australia

Credit: World Animal Protection / Carol Slater

Koala cuddles at Lone Pine, Australia

Too close for comfort

Read our 'Too Close for Comfort' report and learn how a selfie with a wild animal can mean a lifetime of suffering for the animal.

koala at a themed park in Australia

Stop cruel koala cuddles

Call on the Queensland Premier to join other states in banning cruel koala encounters, including koala cuddles, selfies.

Koala in the wild in Gunai Kurnai Country, Australia

Tips to spot koalas in the wild

While koalas can be hard to spot here are our four tips to see these incredible creatures in the wild on your next Australian holiday.