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Koala's Toxic Diet

A koala's diet is almost as unique as the furry marsupial itself. Koalas live almost solely on a diet of Eucalyptus leaves. This is pretty amazing considering that Eucalyptus leaves are highly toxic to almost all other living creatures. The Greater Glider and Ringtail possum are the only other species that eat and can tolerate Eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas have a unique digestive system with a large caecum, this helps them to digest the toxic leaves and not get sick. The caecum has millions of good bacteria that break down fibers from the gum leaves making them easier to absorb. Humans also have a caecum but the Koalas is extra long.

In addition to mother's milk, joeys feed on a substance produced by the mother called pap. Pap is a form of faeces and is a very important part of a joeys diet. It contains micro-organisms from the mum's digestive system. These micro-organisms are required for the digestion of gum leaves and will help prepare the young joey to tolerate them later.

Eucalyptus leaves have poor nutritional value and are very low in calories providing the koala with little energy, this is why koalas can sleep for up to 22 hours a day. Koalas are able to utilise the small amount of energy contained in the gum leaves thanks to a slow metabolic rate. This allows the food to remain in the koalas digestive system for a longer period of time.

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Koala mum and joey eating Eucalyptus leaves

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