I never knew that there was a Joey (baby koala) which was born in Africa until I visited Pretoria Zoo in Gauteng Province. The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) which is found in Pretoria Zoo is the only koala which was born in Africa. The breeding program of Phascolarctos cinereus population was implemented in November 2005 by the National Zoological Garden of South Africa (1). The koala was born on the 4th of January 2006 (2). It took twenty to thirty days for a baby koala to be born (3). The koala babies weighed about 5g at birth. The koala was named Willie after the former Director of the Zoo Wille Labuschagne (1).
On first glance, it appears that Phascolarctos cinereus is closely related to a bear because it looks like a teddy bear, hence it is sometimes called koala bear. Koala is closely related with kangaroo and opossum (3). Koala is also distant cousin of wombats (4). Actually, koalas are related to bears, just more distantly than they are to kangaroos and wombats.
Willie the koala stayed in its mother’s pouch for approximately seven months and fed on milk of its mother (1). The pouch of Phascolarctos cinereus is distinctive comparing to other tree dwindling placental mammals; it opens at the rear (4). Phascolarctos cinereus begins to cling on the back of its mother at about six months until it is about twelve months old (4).
Phascolarctos cinereus feed and sleep on Eucalyptus leaves. The koala in Pretoria zoo consumes eight different types of Eucalyptus (1). Eucalyptus leaves have a high water content which quenches the koala’s thirst. Phascolarctos cinereus does not usually drink water; however, it drinks during drought season. Eucalyptus leaves are rich in fibre and poor in protein. They also contain little energy as a result; Phascolarctos cinereus conserves energy by sleeping during the day and moving very slowly (5). Phascolarctos cinereus that is found at Pretoria Zoo sleep about twenty hours (1). Phascolarctos cinereus is nocturnal species (4).
The recent studies show that there are fewer koalas in the wild comparing to the previous years in their home environment (Australia) (6). Humans are known to be the biggest threat to koalas. Koala habitats are fragmented due to urban development, roads and agriculture and results to changes population dynamics (7).
Since European settlement in the early 1800s (6), around 80% of eucalyptus forests (the natural habitat for koalas) have been destroyed (7). The bushfires and drought regularly occurs eucalypts forest of Australia and these increase strain to the population of Phascolarctos cinereus. More than 4000 koalas are killed annually by cars or dogs (7). Koalas were killed by cars when they are searching for new territories (6). Koalas were hunted in the late 1920s for their fur. More than two million koala skins were exported United States and Europe (6). Koala were about to go extinct in Australia due to being hunted. Koalas are preyed upon by wedge-tailed eagles, goannas dingoes and pythons. The koalas are also threatened by feral animals such as cats and foxes (7).
Koalas are protected by Endanger Species Act’s Protection law in their Australia (6). The law was effective on the 8th of June 2000 throughout Australia (8). The koalas were listed endangered because they were threatened in the Queensland. Koalas are no longer exploited for their fur (6).
Koalas of Australia are mostly conserved because they may go extinct. The area such as Pretoria Zoo is also playing an important in conservation of koala. Koalas were threatened in their home environment. Koalas are currently protected by law. At long last, koala is born in Africa.
1. Oelofse L. Pretoria zoo welcomes first born in Africa. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:
2. Bulletin Biltong. 2006. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:
3. The Endangered Koalas. [ Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:
4. Lawsen S. Koala Bears. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:
5. Koala. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:
6. Nina B.2001. Koala Bear. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from: http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/koala_bear.htm
7.Anonymous. Koala. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from: http://home.swiftdsl.com.au/~endangered/koala.htm
8. Clark J.P. Rules and Regulations. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 22] Available from:http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:GaO02cTft54J:www.fws.gov/international/pdf
Masiya KediboneP.O. Box 395
NISL- Ecological Informatics