Koala FAQs

How long do koalas live?

The average lifespan for a wild koala is 10 to 12 years. However, the oldest wild koala recorded by Friends of the Koala was a female aged 19 years old.


How big are koalas?

Koalas differ in size, colour and shape throughout their distribution range. Northern koalas have a short, thick, grey and white coat and are smaller than their southern counterparts. On average, northern male koalas weigh between 7- 8kg and females between 6-7kg.


How often do koalas breed?

Koalas mate throughout the year, but the mating season peaks between November and January. Males become sexually active from 3 years of age. Females can breed from 2 years of age and generally give birth once a year for the next 10 to 15 years.


How long does a joey stay with its mother?

Koalas are the size of a small jelly bean when born; their eyes are shut, ears stuck to their head and they have no fur. They take a precarious journey from the cloaca, crawling into their mother’s pouch and attaching themselves to one of their mother’s two teats. Koala joeys spend the first 6 months of their lives in their mother’s pouch, and during this time grow fur and open their eyes. From 7-12 months they spend their time on their mum’s tummy, back or close by, learning how to navigate the treetops and adjusting to a diet of eucalyptus leaves. The next few months are spent in the same vicinity as their mother as they become weaned and fully independent. Females often stay in the same area as their mothers, but young males usually disperse.


What do koalas eat?

Koalas mostly eat eucalypt leaves, but will consume the flowers, buds, stems and bark of a eucalyptus tree. Koalas are fussy eaters and rely exclusively on one or two species of eucalyptus trees, which are their primary browse trees. This varies between regions and an individual’s range. They do browse opportunistically on other species of eucalypts as well as some non-eucalypts such as She Oaks and Paperbarks that are utilised for other behavioural purposes such as shade. Preferred koala food trees in the Northern Rivers are Forest Red Gum, Tallowwood and Swamp Mahogany.


Why do koalas sleep so much?

Eucalyptus leaves are extremely low in nutrients. Koalas conserve the little energy they do receive from the leaf by sleeping for up to 20 hours a day. Koalas need to save their energy for moving between trees, digesting the food they eat, looking for mates in the breeding season, and escaping from predators.


How can you find koalas in the wild?

Koalas can often go unnoticed when they are resting up high in a fork of a tree, but can be found if you look and listen for the following signs:

  • scratch marks on tree trunks
  • scats on the ground
  • calls and bellows

If you see a koala in the wild, be quiet, move slowly and stay at least 10m away from the tree. Make sure to report sightings to us so accurate records of activity and sightings can be maintained across our region. .


How can you tell the difference between a male and female koala?

Male koalas are generally larger than females and their testicles are sometimes visible. They have a longer, broader face and as adults are more muscular. At sexual maturity (2 -3 years) they develop a scent gland on their chest which looks like a dirty, vertical mark down the middle of their upper chest. They use this scent glad to claim their territory by rubbing it against the trunks of their trees.

Females are generally smaller, with fluffier ears. They have a rounder, softer face and are smaller in size.

Having said that, some females have broad faces and some males have lovely fluffy ears. There are always exceptions to the rule with koalas.


Where do koalas live in the Northern Rivers?

Koalas are widely distributed across the Northern Rivers region of NSW although their numbers vary depending on available habitat. There are regular sightings in all the local government areas of Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed. Koalas are found in areas with extensive bushland however they also survive in urban areas although they are much more vulnerable there to threats such as vehicles, dogs and swimming pools.


What are the major threats facing koalas?

The biggest threat koalas face is habitat loss. As their habitat becomes smaller and more fragmented, koalas are forced to travel on foot through urbanised and agricultural areas. Once on the ground they become vulnerable to vehicle strikes and dog attacks. These threats result in elevated stress levels which can cause outbreaks of infectious diseases such as koala retrovirus and chlamydia in koala populations.


How can you help koalas?

You can make a difference by:

  • Protecting koala habitat and planting koala food trees
  • Driving carefully and reducing your speed in known koala hotspots
  • Containing your dogs at night and leashing them while walking
  • Contacting our 24hr Rescue Hotline when you see a koala that is sick or in distress
  • Reporting koala sightings
  • Adopting a Koala or donating to our cause
  • Becoming a member of Friends of the Koala or volunteering with us
  • Raising awareness of the threats which face koalas

Volunteering FAQs

Who can apply to be a volunteer?

In order to become a volunteer with Friends of the Koala you must:

  • Be 18 years old or over
  • Be a member of Friends of the Koala
  • Undertake our volunteer training and agree to act in accordance with our Code of Conduct.
  • Have your own email address as this is how we communicate with our volunteers

When can I volunteer? 

Friends of the Koala provides volunteer opportunities throughout the year. All new volunteers are required to participate in a two-month probationary period. This gives you the best possible opportunity to immerse yourself in the experience, as well as gain valuable feedback from our experienced team members.

What skills and characteristics do I need?

There is no need for qualifications or industry specific experience. What we look for is motivation, confidence, a strong work ethic and a genuine desire to care for our koalas.

You should be in good health and be reasonably fit and prepared to take part to the best of your ability. We ask all prospective volunteers to declare any medical conditions, allergies, disabilities or existing injuries that may affect participation. This will be discussed with you in a confidential manner.

How much time do I have to commit?

The minimum commitment to volunteer is 4 weeks (volunteering 5 days a week) however this is generally offered to interstate and international travellers. Most of our volunteers’ volunteer on a regular basis, committing to 3-4 hours one day a week, depending on the role.

Will I receive training?

Some positions require volunteers to attend formal training prior to commencing in the role, while other roles may provide on-the-job training. Training is generally provided by Friends of the Koala.

What do I wear?

To ensure your safety while volunteering with Friends of the Koala, please wear a comfortable long sleeve shirt and trousers. We recommend you wear old work clothes. We also recommend strong safety work boots with protective toe caps. Covered shoes are essential.

Can volunteers pat and hold koalas?

The koalas we work with are wild koalas and therefore cannot be picked up, handled and treated like captive born koalas.

How do I become a volunteer?

Becoming a volunteer at Friends of the Koala is easy! Simply complete a Volunteer Application Form and our Volunteer Coordinator will be in touch with you to arrange an induction session.