A Koala is a tree-dwelling pouched mammal native to the southern and eastern parts of Australia. It has a scientific name of Phascolarctos Cinereus and oftentimes mistakenly called koala bear as it looked quite fuzzy due to all that fur. However, it is not a bear but is classified as a marsupial, which means each koala has a protective pouch for the maturation of the offspring. Due to the horrific bushfires in Australia recently, the number of koalas decreased, but fire isn’t the only thing that is challenging the existence of these cute fluffy animals, several predators lurked in the trees to feast on them too.
Main Koala Predators
The dingo is a distinct type of predator that possesses a lean, agile body that can run fast. At a glance, one would think it is just a regular domesticated dog, but they have a longer snout and wider head. Due to this physical likeness, they are oftentimes referred to as wild dogs. Generally, this animal travel in packs but some can survive alone. These animals are not indigenous predators of the koalas as they are not originally found in Australia. Experts found out that around 3,500 years ago dingoes traveled from Asia to Australia. Generally, when a koala is up in the tree, it is safe from dingoes. However, the moment koalas are on the ground, they are extremely vulnerable to them. One of the weak characteristics of a koala is its slowness due to its diet of eucalyptus leaves. Even bigger-sized koalas are no match to the faster dingoes when they are on the ground. They hunt in packs and can easily grab a roaming koala.
Out of 31 python species in the world, 14 can be found in Australia. Python is a nonvenomous snake and an ambush predator that is known to kill its prey by constriction. It does not matter whether a koala is on the tree or the ground, pythons can get to them as they can climb and hang on tree branches. While other predators by nature cannot attack prey that is bigger than them, pythons do not share that limitation. An average koala can grow up to 27 to 36 inches in length and weighs 4 to 9 kilos. These numbers do not matter to these predators of koalas. A python can swallow a koala in whatever shape or form or even if it is several times bigger than the predator.
Goanna is most commonly known as the Australian monitor lizard. These goannas can grow up to 3 meters long, and those that are in the wild are known to have lived for about 40 years. These predators are carnivorous with venomous glands. While most of them can be found on the ground, they are good tree climbers which make it easier for them to hunt for koalas. Goannas can detect prey through smell by flicking their long forked tongues in the air. They can also subdue their prey through biting, and the venom would prevent any blood clotting. The koala will then bleed to death.
4. Wedge-tailed Eagle
Australia’s largest bird of prey, also known locally as Bunji, is regarded as an aerial predator. The average wedge-tailed eagle can grow between 32 to 42 inches in length and weighs between 2 and 5.8 kilos with the female slightly bigger than the male. Its average wingspan is about 6 to 7 feet but some species can develop up to 9 feet. It uses its powerful claws to catch their prey and then use its hooked beaks to tear it to pieces. To avoid ground predators, most koalas climb as high as they can up a tree where they can rest peacefully as they are known to sleep most of the day. For adult and bigger-sized koalas, this is the safest thing to do, but it can be dangerous for the smaller ones because they can easily be snatched from there as this predator of koalas has excellent vision.
5. Powerful Owl
The Powerful Owl, just like the wedge-tailed eagle, can calculate the koala’s movements from the air. It is the largest species in the family of Australian owls with its 50-60 cm size range. The Powerful Owl can easily be distinguished due to its small head and rounded tail. They can easily swoop down and grab tree-dwelling mammals from the trees with their massive feet. While they do prey on koalas, possums are their favorite meal.
6. Tasmanian Tigers
The Tasmanian tiger was the largest known carnivorous marsupial that was last seen in 1933. Australia was home to these extinct species. Its appearance was similar to that of a medium to a large-sized domesticated dog but it had stripes on its lower back, a pouch, and a stiff tail. It was considered an apex predator where they are on the top of the food chain. However, disease and continuous hunting by humans rendered them extinct. When this predator of koalas was still around, koalas could not avoid these nocturnal predators when they are on the ground. They also hunted in packs, and research study shows that they are ambush predators as well.
The fur of the koalas has served as their death warrant. From the 19th century up to the 20th century, humans have become one of the koala’s biggest predators. The financial reward that can be gained from the fur of these animals had launched unprecedented hunting of koalas in massive proportions in Australia. Recently, attacks from pet dogs are increasing as well as collisions with vehicles. Most of these injured animals are treated in wildlife hospitals but are released back to the wild as it is illegal to keep them as pets.
Since there are no huge agile climbers such as jaguars and leopards known to exist in Australia bushes, the koalas are relatively safe up in the trees. The declining koala numbers recently are mostly due to urbanization and deforestation. No natural predator can defeat human’s greed for money.
I hope that this article on koala predators was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!