A koala and her joey in a gum tree.

Redlands Coast is home to a significant koala population, and many of them can be found in our urban areas and even in our Cleveland business district. Residents and visitors can enjoy the sights of koalas in our bushlands, parklands, street trees, schoolyards, urban backyards and in some shopping centre car parks.

Follow the links for information about koalas in the Redlands:

Scientific name

Phascolarctos cinereus

Conservation status

Queensland: Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992).

Commonwealth Government: Vulnerable (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).  

What do they look like?

The koala is a type of mammal called a marsupial. This means that females have a pouch. Koalas are closely related to the wombat because both have backward-facing pouches.

They have a stout body with strong arms for climbing.  They also have very long, curves claws. Koalas have two opposable thumbs on each hand which helps with extra strong grip when climbing through the trees.

A koala's size, colouring and shape vary depending on geographic range; for example, southern koalas have thicker and darker fur and are generally larger than those in Queensland which have short, paler grey fur. Males weigh between 6-10 kilograms compared to females who are slightly smaller and range between 5-7 kilograms.

Males can also be distinguished by their scent glans, a small bare patch in the middle of the chest which is often stained brown, especially during breeding season. Male koalas can be seen rubbing their scent gland on branches and the trunks of trees to advertise their presence.  

Where do they live?

Koalas can be found throughout south east Queensland. They live all over the Redlands, especially in our urban areas.

When are they moving around?

Koalas are mostly active at night but they will move around during the day. They will move if they are disturbed, if they are too hot, too cold or simply to find a new feed tree. During the day, they tend to move mid-morning (10-11am) and late afternoon (3-4pm).

Koalas are mainly solitary animals except during the mating season. The males communicate through a variety of calls consisting of low pitched bellows and grunts. These calls are often heard during the mating season.

Did you know... a koala can sleep sleep 18 to 20 hours a day! They do this to conserve energy. Eucalyptus leaves are very high in fibre but low in nutrition, they also contain toxins, which means they take a lot of energy to digest.

What is dispersal season?

Dispersal is when young koalas leave their mums and head out on their own. The dispersal season generally runs from July to December each year, usually about the same time as breeding season.

Koalas are independent of their mums when they are around a year old. They will start to venture further away from their mums and onto nearby branches, then nearby trees as they get more confident.

They usually leave their mum’s home range to head out on their own when their mum’s next joey leaves the pouch. This usually happens when they are around 1½ years old. What “sends them off” depends on a range of factors, including density of the population in the area, the time of year, their age, resource availability and habitat disturbance.

Why do I see them in unusual places?

During dispersal season, young koalas will be out and about looking for their own home range. They are often curious and appear in surprising places as they pass through looking for somewhere to settle in. These places may appear unusual to us, but they are an important part of koala movement pathways or dispersal routes.

They will use a variety of trees in their travels, not all eucalypts and not all native. These trees play an important role as “stepping stones” in their passage across the urban landscape.   

Young females don’t tend to travel as far as young males and can often find available trees in, or near, their mum’s home range. Young males often travel further and encounter more obstacles as they are ‘sent on their way’ by the older breeding males, who can be very territorial.

Dispersing koalas are small and weigh in at around 3-5 kgs, leading some people to mistakenly think that they are “babies” that have lost their mum. You will also notice them frequently moving along the ground, don’t worry, this is normal behaviour as they travel between trees of interest.

You will also see and hear older koalas moving around more during breeding season, as they look for mates. The Cleveland area is home to a number of koalas, they can be seen using the trees in our car parks and outside our cafes, shops and businesses. If you’re lucky, you may even see one wondering wandering along our footpaths or in a Poinciana tree at the markets.

 

What types of trees to koalas need?

Koalas have home ranges with many different trees in them. The different trees are like different rooms in the same house with each serving a distinct purpose.

While eucalypts and other related species form the main part of a koala’s diet, food is not the only reason koalas need trees. Koalas use trees to protect themselves from the weather.

On a cool winter morning koalas can sometimes be seen at the top of a sparse tree, catching the sun’s first rays to warm up.

On a hot summer day they can be difficult to locate as they seek shade in densely foliaged trees. These might be natives like figs or rainforest trees but can even include mangos or poincianas.

Koalas have ‘home ranges’ rather than defined territories. Home ranges overlap and neighbouring koalas will use some of the same trees. Trees also form the boundaries of these home ranges. Within a home range koalas will often use the same trees repeatedly in preference to other trees. Juvenile koalas will disperse from their mother’s home range to establish home ranges of their own. Young males will travel further than females  and may have to travel some distance before they find a suitable area. During this trek they may use any species of tree, fence or power pole if they are threatened or feel unsafe.

What do they eat?

Koalas are specialist leaf eaters, or folivores, feeding predominately, but not exclusively, on eucalypt leaves. Throughout Australia koalas are known to feed on a variety of Eucalyptus trees, as well as other closely related species such as melaleuca (paperbark), callistemon (bottlebrush), lophostemon (brush box) and corymbia (bloodwood) and casuarinas.

Koalas show a strong preference for the species that grow in their local area. For example, a Cleveland koala may not prefer ironbark leaves but for a Sheldon koala, where ironbark is common, they are an important food source.

While koalas can feed on a range of trees,these are some of the preferred  trees in the Redlands:.

  • Tallowwood (eucalyptus microcorys) – a nice shade tree with shorter leaves than most eucalypts and suited to most soil types.
  • Grey gum (eucalyptus propinqua) –  the spongy bark of this species makes it easy to see how frequently wildlife are using them.
  • Scribbly gum (eucalyptus racemosa) –  this attractive, smooth-barked tree, which can grow to 30 meters, has little scribbles on the trunk caused by moth larvae.
  • Queensland blue gum (eucalyptus tereticornis) – this very large tree (up to 50 meters) is fast growing and provides habitat for many more species.

Other Redlands tree species that koala will regularly feed on include:

  • Spotted gum (corymbia. citriodora)
  • White mahogany (e. carnea)
  • Narrow-leaved ironbark (e. crebra)
  • Broad-leaf red ironbark (e. fibrosa)
  • Mountain grey gum (e. majorem>)
  • Gum-topped box (e. moluccana)
  • Red stringybark (e. resinifera)
  • Swamp mahogany (e. robusta)
  • Narrow-leaved red gum (e. seeana)
  • Grey ironbark (e. siderophloia)
  • White stringybark (e. tindaliae)
  • Broad-leaved paperbark (melaleuca quinquenervia)
  • Brush box (lophostemon confertus)
  • Swamp box (l. suaveolens).

Consider planting some of these trees in your backyard to help your local koalas. You can get free koala food trees from the Indigiscapes nursery.

What is the lifespan of a koala?

A koala in the wild will live for approximately 8-10 years; however the average life span is often significantly reduced in suburban areas due to increased threats such as disease, loss of habitat, dogs, traffic and swimming pools.

Wildlife in the Redlands - koala joey

What about baby koalas?

The breeding season is generally from August to December. Females are sexually mature at approximately two years of age and can produce one young per year. Twins are rare. Males breed from the age of three years.

Gestation lasts 35 days before the joey is born which is only 2cm in length and are totally hairless, without ears and are blind. After birth, the joey makes its way to the mother’s pouch where it attaches itself to one of her two teats.

The joey first emerges from the pouch after five to six months. Before the joey can eat gum leaves, the mother produces a special form of faeces, called pap. The joey must eat the pap because it provides the important gut bacteria necessary to digest eucalypt leaves.

What is threatening koalas?

The main threats to koalas include;

  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat fragmentation (when they have to travel distances between pockets of habitat)
  • Disease
  • Death or injury from vehicles 
  • Attacks from dogs
  • Fencing that inhibits koala movement
  • Swimming pools
  • Climate change

What is council doing to help?

Redland City Council is working hard to help conserve and protect koalas. For information on all the ways we are helping, including our awareness programs, research, conservation strategy and action plan, visit our koala conservation program page.

How can I help our koalas?

You can play an important part in helping to keep our koalas safe.

  • Plant koala food trees. Eucalyptus seeana and robusta can be maintained at a shorter height to suit smaller backyards. Free koala food trees are available at IndigiScapes Centre.
  • Retain and plant trees in your backyard. It doesn’t even have to be a eucalypt tree, but a native tree that will allow a koala to rest or move safely through your yard. We call these stepping stone trees.
  • Confine or restrain your dogs at night. This will not only help our koalas, but your dog will enjoyed being ‘tucked in’ at night with its family.
  • When installing a swimming pool use the beach style design which allows easy escape. Put a thick rope or “Scamper Ramp” in your pools that will allow a koala, or other wildlife to grab/jump onto.
  • Remember that koalas are found throughout the Redlands, so slow down and keep a watch out when you are driving. Speed is one of the biggest killers of koalas and people
  • Make sure your fences are wildlife friendly. It can be as simple as placing a 10cm pole at an angle against your fence, to help a koalas move through your area. 
  • Help koalas by volunteering for the Koala Action Group or join some of our volunteering and partnership programs
  • Join your local bushcare group or Environmental Partnership programs to help maintain and replant koala habitat.
  • Observe the movements of your ‘backyard’ koala to help identify and protect key trees. Have you seen a koala? Register on the Atlas of Living Australia website and submit your koala sightings at iNaturalist. 

How can I tell if a koala is sick or injured?

A number of koalas are found each year with diseases such as conjunctivitis and cystitis, or injuries from dogs and vehicles.

Symptoms of a sick or injured koala include:

  • eyes are inflamed, red, puffy, crusty and/or weeping
  • very dirty or wet bottom
  • signs of injury such as cuts and blood
  • very skinny
  • not using all four limbs when climbing or walking
  • staying in a tree for more than a couple of days
  • sitting at the base of a tree.

If you see a koala with these symptoms or behaviours, please telephone Redlands 24hr Wildlife Rescue on (07) 3833 4031

Further information

Visit these websites for further details:

Redlands Wildlife Rescue

Koala Action Group

Daisy Hill Koala Centre

For more information or to talk to one of our wildlife officers, contact Redland City Council on (07) 3824 8611.