5 Amazing Facts about Koala Joeys

1. Baby koalas are called Joeys. All marsupial babies are called joeys – kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, tasmanian devils, possums & bilbys. The meaning/origin is unknown – it’s possibly just a diminutive used at that time for any small animal. Joey as a baby marsupial was first recorded in use in 1839.

The use of the word joey may have started with the word being applied for a British fourpenny coin. Politician Joseph Hume promoted the use of the fourpenny, thus the coin developed the slang name joey after him.

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2. The first time you see a koala joey it is already 6 months old. Koala joeys are born as tiny naked creatures that don’t look anything like a koala. They move straight into the pouch, and remain unseen until they emerge at around 6 months old.

Actual emergence takes time. The joey first pokes his head out of the pouch at 5.5 months, and fully emerges at 6 to 7 months. By 8 to 9 months the joey becomes too large to get into the pouch, and spends all his time on his mother’s belly or back.

3. Koalas invented pro-biotics. Koala joeys eat ‘pap’ – a special substance produced by their mother that looks like poo and acts like a probiotic. It contains gut flora that the joey needs to process eucalyptus leaves. The mother koala produces it from her caecum (a special chamber in her large intestine) and delivers it from her cloaca, so though it looks a bit like poo, its not.

Pap is absolutely essential to a koala’s health. Wildlife Carers with orphaned koala joeys will frequently ask the wildlife care community for a postal delivery of pap from a koala mother – any koala mother will do, the closer the better but any is better than none. Imagine receiving that package of squishy green slurry in the mail!

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4. Koala joeys are born out of their mother’s central vagina. Female koalas have three vaginas.

Why? Its complicated, and deserves a complete blog on the subject. Suffice to say that the two lateral (side) vaginae are for the passage of sperm to the uteri, and the median (central) vagina is for birth.

5. Koala joeys are born high in a tree. There is no danger of them falling to the ground – they are so tiny they get trapped in their mother’s fur. At birth a koala joey weighs only 1 gram – as much as a single sultana/raisin – and is only 2cm long.

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It’s Koala Joey Season in the state of Victoria right now. All over the state wild koalas can be seen with joeys – hotspots are The You Yangs near Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road and Raymond Island, East Gippsland.

Echidna Walkabout runs the following tours to see koalas in the wild – with a high chance of seeing koala joeys each year from September to November:

Wildlife Journey 4 days

Great Ocean Road 3 days

Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD 1 day

For more information contact:

Janine Duffy

janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

T: +61 (0)3 9646 8249

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours & Koala Clancy Foundation

http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au http://koalaclancyfoundation.org.au

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All about Ringtail Possums! #ringtailPossum week

Its ‪#‎RingtailPossum‬ week! Australia’s Common Ringtail is a small arboreal possum with a body length about the same as a 30cm school ruler, and a weight of 500g to 1kg.

Watch them in action: https://youtu.be/jlCEE4Q3X7E

ringtail possum

These beautiful little marsupials live in the You Yangs and can occasionally be seen by day, if you are lucky or know where to look! Their main roost is a drey – a circular nest made of sticks – that they construct themselves. But though dreys are easy to find, they are tightly woven, so it is difficult to see possums inside them. We do often find some possums, like these ones, sheltering in bushy shrubs.

ringtail possum

Did you know that Common Ringtail Possums live in family groups? Mum, Dad, new joeys and last year’s immature young all snuggle together in the same drey by day and emerge to feed at night.

So when we see a little darling alone, like this one, it makes us wonder where the rest of the family is hiding! Or possibly, its a young animal, newly independent, that hasn’t found his/her own home yet.

ringtail possum

Common Ringtail Possum gestation is 20 – 26 days. Ringtails usually have two babies at a time, anytime from May to December.  After leaving the pouch at 4 months, ringtail joeys ride on their parents backs for a few months. Both ringtail parents take turns caring for and carrying their babies.

Ringtail Possum joeys are weaned at about 6 months, but will stay with their parents until maturity at about 13 months.

ringtail possum
Ringtail adult and baby

As ringtails build their own nest, they can live in young eucalyptus forest with few natural hollows. Young forest suits them – they prefer the young foliage of eucalyptus trees, and mostly eat mature leaves when young leaves are not available.

In one study near Melbourne, Victoria, ringtails were found to prefer to eat (in order): Swamp Gum (E. ovata), Spotted Gum (E. maculatus), River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis), Forest Red Gum (E. tereticornis). Ringtails do eat the leaves of several shrubs, including Leptospermum (tea-tree) and Acacia (wattle) especially if their preferred young eucalyptus is not available (1).

ringtail possum

Ringtails have a very special, clever adaptation to their nutrient-poor diet: they reingest the contents of their caecum to get more nutrition from their food. Basically, they produce 2 different types of poo: hard ‘normal’ faeces at night which is not eaten, & soft caecum faeces in the day, which they eat. Its a bit like koala pap. Eating the soft ‘cecotrope’is similar to cattle chewing their cud – the only difference is that the food passes almost all the way through the digestive system, extracting a maximum of nutrients, before being expelled. Other animals do it too, particularly rabbits and hares.

ringtail possum

Common Ringtails really are quite beautiful little animals. They have a soft, bird-like twittering song that often goes unnoticed unless you are listening for it. If you love them and have them in your backyard, you can help them by planting eucalyptus trees, by keeping your cat & dog inside at night, and by allowing branches of trees to interconnect so that the possums don’t have to run along the powerline.

  1. Pahl, L “Diet preference, diet composition and population density of the ringtail possum in several plant communities in southern Victoria” pages 253-60 in POSSUMS and GLIDERS ed by A P Smith and I D Hume, Australian Mammal Society, Sydney 1984

The mammals of Victoria, Australia

Full List of Mammals of Victoria, Australia

Victoria has 103 native extant (living) mammal species.  They represent 28 families in 8 orders.  Victoria comprises only 3% of Australia’s total area, but is home to nearly 30% of her mammals.  Most of the major types of Australian mammals are present in this state: 2 of the 2 monotreme families; 11 of the 17 living marsupial families; 6 of the 8 bat families; 1 of the 1 family of native rodents and 8 of the 10 families of marine mammals.

Conservation Status in Victoria is noted beside each species thus: CR: Critically Endangered EN: Endangered VU: Vulnerable NT: Near Threatened DD: Data Deficient

MONOTREMES: Order Monotremata  (2)

Family: Ornithorhynchidae (1)

Ornithorhynchus anatinus (Platypus)

Family: Tachyglossidae (1) ECHIDNA

Tachyglossus aculeatus (Short-beaked Echidna)

MARSUPIALS: Infraclass Marsupialia (38)

Order: Diprotodontia (24)

Kangaroos, wallabies:  Suborder Macropodiformes (9)

Family: Macropodidae (7)

Macropus fuliginosus (Western Grey Kangaroo)

Macropus giganteus (Eastern Grey Kangaroo)

Swamp Wallaby
Swamp Wallaby
Eastern Grey Kangaroos
Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Macropus robustus (Eastern Wallaroo) EN

Macropus rufogriseus (Red-necked Wallaby)

Macropus rufus (Red Kangaroo)

Petrogale penicillata (Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby) CR

Wallabia bicolor (Swamp Wallaby)

Family: Potoroidae (2)

Potorous longipes (Long-footed Potoroo) EN

Potorous tridactylus (Long-nosed Potoroo) EN

Koala & wombat: Suborder Vombatiformes (2)

Family: Phascolarctidae (1)

Phascolarctos cinereus (Koala)

wild male koala "Clancy"
wild male koala “Clancy”

Family: Vombatidae (1)

Vombatus ursinus (Common Wombat)

Common (Bare-nosed) Wombat
Common (Bare-nosed) Wombat

Possums & Gliders: Suborder Phalangeriformes (13)

Family: Acrobatidae (1)

Acrobates pygmaeus (Feathertail Glider)

Family: Burramyidae (5)

Burramys parvus (Mountain Pygmy Possum) CR

Cercartetus concinnus (Southwestern Pygmy Possum) NT

Cercartetus lepidus (Tasmanian Pygmy Possum) NT

Cercartetus nanus (Eastern Pygmy Possum) NT

Gymnobelideus leadbeateri (Leadbeater’s Possum) CR

Family: Pseudocheiridae (2)

Petauroides volans (Greater Glider)

Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Common Ringtail Possum)

Common Ringtail Possum
Common Ringtail Possum

Family: Petauridae (3)

Petaurus australis (Yellow-bellied Glider)

Petaurus breviceps (Sugar Glider)

Petaurus norfolcensis (Squirrel Glider) EN

Family: Phalangeridae (2)

Trichosurus caninus (Mountain Brushtail Possum/Bobuck)

Common Brushtail Possum
Common Brushtail Possum

Trichosurus vulpecula (Common Brushtail Possum)

Bandicoots: Order Peramelemorphia (3) 

Family: Peramelidae (3)

Isoodon obesulus (Southern Brown Bandicoot)

Perameles gunnii gunnii (Eastern Barred Bandicoot) CR

Perameles nasuta (Long-nosed Bandicoot)

Dasyurids (carnivorous mammals): Order Dasyuromorphia (11) 

Family: Dasyuridae (11)

Antechinus agilis (Agile Antechinus)

Agile Antechinus
prob. Agile Antechinus

Antechinus flavipes (Yellow-footed Antechinus)

Antechinus minimus (Swamp Antechinus)

Antechinus swainsonii (Dusky Antechinus)

Dasyurus maculatus (Tiger/Spot-tailed Quoll) EN

Ningaui yvonneae (Southern Ningaui) NT

Phascogale tapoatafa (Brush-tailed Phascogale) VU

Planigale gilesi (Giles/Paucident Planigale) NT

Sminthopsis crassicaudata (Fat-tailed Dunnart) NT

Sminthopsis leucopus (White-footed Dunnart) NT

Sminthopsis murina (Slender-tailed/Common Dunnart) VU

PLACENTALS/EUTHERIANS: Infraclass Placentalia (63)

Order: Carnivora (8)

Suborder: Caniformia (8)

Family: Canidae (1)

Canis lupus dingo (Dingo) DD

MARINE MAMMALS: (33 in two orders)

Seals: (7)

Family Otariidae (4)

Arctocephalus forsteri (New Zealand Fur Seal) VU

Australian Fur Seal
Australian Fur Seal

Arctocephalus pusillus (Cape/Australian Fur Seal)

Arctocephalus tropicalis (Subantarctic Fur Seal)

Neophoca cinerea (Australian Sea Lion)

Family: Phocidae (3)

Hydrurga leptonyx (Leopard Seal)

Lobodon carcinophaga (Crabeater Seal)

Mirounga leonina (Southern Elephant Seal)

Whales & Dolphins (Cetaceans):  Order Cetacea (26)

Suborder: Mysticeti (8)

Family: Balaenidae (1)

Eubalaena australis (Southern Right Whale) CR

Family: Balaenopteridae (6)

Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Minke Whale)

Balaenoptera borealis (Sei Whale) DD

Balaenoptera edeni (Bryde’s Whale) DD

Balaenoptera musculus (Blue Whale)

Balaenoptera physalus (Fin Whale) DD

Megaptera novaeangliae (Humpback Whale) VU

Family: Cetotheriidae (1)

Caperea marginata (Pygmy Right Whale)

Suborder: Odontoceti (18)

Family: Delphinidae (8)

Delphinus delphis (Short-beaked Common Dolphin)

Globicephala melas (Long-finned Pilot Whale)

Bottlenose Dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphins

Grampus griseus (Risso’s Dolphin)

Lagenodelphis hosei (Fraser’s Dolphin)

Orcinus orca (Orca)

Pseudorca crassidens (False Killer Whale)

Tursiops australis (Burrunan Dolphin) EN

Tursiops truncatus (Bottlenose Dolphin)

Family: Physeteridae (2)

Kogia breviceps (Pygmy Sperm Whale)

Physeter macrocephalus (Sperm Whale)

Family: Ziphiidae (8)

Hyperoodon planifrons (Bottlenose Whale)

Mesoplodon bowdoini (Andrews’ Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon densirostris (Blainville’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon ginkgodens (Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon grayi (Gray’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon layardii (Layard’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon mirus (True’s Beaked Whale)

Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier’s Beaked Whale)

Bats, Fruit Bats, Flying foxes: Order Chiroptera (20) 

Flying Foxes: Suborder Megachiroptera (2)

Family: Pteropodidae (2)

Pteropus poliocephalus (Grey-headed Flying-fox) VU

Grey Headed Flying Fox
Grey Headed Flying Fox

Pteropus scapulatus (Little Red Flying-fox)

Micro-bats:

Suborder Microchiroptera (17)

Family: Emballonuridae (1)

Saccolaimus flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Pouched Bat)

Family: Molossidae (2)

Mormopterus planiceps (Southern Free-tailed Bat)

Tadarida australis (White-striped Free-tailed Bat)

Family: Vespertilionidae (14) 

Chalinolobus gouldii (Gould’s Wattled Bat)

Goulds Wattled Bat
Goulds Wattled Bat

Chalinolobus morio (Chocolate Wattled Bat)

Falsistrellus tasmaniensis (Eastern False Pipistrelle)

Miniopterus schreibersii (Common Bentwing Bat) EN

Myotis macropus (Large-footed Bat)

Nyctophilus geoffroyi (Lesser Long-eared Bat)

Nyctophilus gouldi (Gould’s Long-eared Bat)

Nyctophilus timoriensis (Greater Long-eared Bat) VU

Scotorepens balstoni (Inland Broad-nosed Bat)

Scotorepens orion (Eastern Broad-nosed Bat)

Vespadelus baverstocki (Inland Forest Bat)

Vespadelus darlingtoni (Large Forest Bat)

Vespadelus regulus (Southern Forest Bat)

Vespadelus vulturnus (Little Forest Bat)

Suborder: Yinpterochiroptera (1)

Family: Rhinolophidae (1)

Rhinolophus megaphyllus (Smaller Horseshoe Bat) VU

Native rats and mice:  Order Rodentia (9)

Family: Muridae (9)

Hydromys chrysogaster (Water Rat)

Swamp Rat
Swamp Rat

Mastacomys fuscus (Broad-toothed Mouse) DD

Notomys mitchellii (Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse) NT

Pseudomys apodemoides (Silky Mouse) NT

Pseudomys fumeus (Smoky Mouse) CR

Pseudomys novaehollandiae (New Holland Mouse) VU

Pseudomys shortridgei (Heath Mouse) NT

Rattus fuscipes (Bush Rat)

Rattus lutreolus (Australian Swamp Rat)

This list has been compiled from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Victoria and The Museum of Victoria: http://museumvictoria.com.au/bioinformatics/mammals and the Atlas of Living Australia:  http://www.ala.org.au

If any mammals are missing, please contact janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

Friday Five: great outdoor things to do in Vic 24 August 2012

1. St Kilda Penguins and Rakali.  Inner suburban St Kilda has a wonderful population of wildife!  The breakwater near St Kilda pier is home to a colony of Little Penguins, which can be seen from public viewing areas after dark most nights.  I believe the first chick of the season has already been sighted.  For more go to: http://stkildapenguins.com.au  As a real bonus, while you’re there you might see the Rakali – a sort-of Aussie otter. These gorgeous water mammals live in a few places around the city but are rarely seen because they mostly come out after dark. I’ve seen one in East Gippsland during the day once, and it was so exciting!  Don’t let the old name “Water Rat” fool you – they are nothing like a rat really, they are big, glossy and very exciting to watch.  I believe that the study group welcomes volunteers to come out and help survey them.  This would be a great school holiday project for older kids.  Go to: http://www.rakali.com/

2. Tower Hill, one of my favourite places.  Tower Hill is an example of how people can recreate a beautiful natural landscape.  A marvellous painter, Eugene von Guerard, did a painting of Tower Hill in the 1850’s before it was cleared for farming.  His work was so detailed that it was used in the 1960’s to revegetate the park.  You wouldn’t believe it now.  Forest full of koalas and birds now grows where there were bald hills only 50 years ago.  See: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/tower-hill-w.r for details.  Make sure you pop in to Worn Gundidj Natural History Centre – they have lots of information and beautiful local artworks to see and buy. I particularly love their local textile range.  The designs are magnificent, and not found anywhere else. http://www.worngundidj.org.au/

overlooking Tower Hill with the coast in the background

3. Echidna Walkabout’s Great Ocean Road 3 day tour.  At this time of year you can see the coastline as it really is: wild, free and untamed.  It’s easy to imagine ships wrecking on the reefs and rocks 200 years ago.  Wildlife loves it at this time of year.  Stand at the Twelve Apostles on dusk and look out for Little Penguins coming ashore way down on the beach below.  We’ve even seen wild Brolga once on a trip at this time of year. http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/en/tours/gor

4. Deen Maar Indigenous Protected Area and Eumeralla Backpackers.  I visited this wonderful place last year for the first time and can’t wait to get back.  There is so much wildlife on this, the first of Victoria’s Indigenous Protected Areas, that it confirms my belief that Australia’s indigenous people are still the best land managers in Australia.  Congratulations go to the Gunditjmara People who are managing the site.  The best way to explore this area is to stay at Eumeralla Backpackers, and arrange a visit from there.  The managers there are lovely, and really helpful.  http://www.moyne.vic.gov.au/page/Page.asp?Page_Id=480&h=1

5. Possums!  Most of Melbourne’s city parks have a population of Common Brushtail Possums.  They come out at night, or just on dusk, and scamper around the grass like little wallabies.  They are adorable, and I think, a must-see for any visitor to Melbourne.  What’s great too, is that seeing them is free!  All you need to do is walk down to the closest park to your hotel and walk around a bit.  If it’s really dark it would help to take a torch/flashlight.  Don’t touch them – they are wild animals with sharp teeth and might accidentally bite you.  Council asks that you don’t feed them, and there’s no need to – they will bounce around you quite happily if you stay still.  Interestingly, though they are called Common Brushtails they are no longer very common in natural bushland.  You are much more likely to see them here than most natural areas.