Koala babies are called joeys. A newborn joey looks just like a pink jellybean! It's about 2 centimetres long, has no fur and its eyes and ears are not yet fully formed. Koala joeys are born without fur, and with their eyes and ears not yet fully developed. This joey is about 2 to 3 months old.
Amazingly, the tiny joey makes its way from the birth canal to the pouch without any help from its mother, climbing up through the fur on her abdomen to the pouch opening. Once inside, it attaches itself to one of the two milk teats which swells to fill its mouth.
The joey stays inside the pouch for the first few months of its life and drinks only mother’s milk. Slowly it grows, developing eyes, ears and fur.
From about 5 or 6 months, the joey pops its head outside the pouch and feeds upon a special food called ‘pap’.
Pap is a soft and runny form of the mother’s droppings which allows the mother to pass on to the joey special tiny organisms which are necessary for the digestion of gum leaves.
By about 7 months of age, the joey leaves the pouch for longer and longer periods of time and it rides on its mother’s abdomen or back, gradually getting used to the diet of gum leaves, although it still returns to the pouch to drink milk until it is too big to fit inside.
The young Koala leaves its mother to take care of itself sometime between 1 and 2 years of age, usually when the mother’s next joey comes out of the pouch. It will need to find some forest that is not occupied by another Koala in order to set up its own home range. Koalas are fully grown by their third or fourth year.
The breeding season runs from about August to March and this is a time when Koalas are very active. Females start breeding at about 3 or 4 years of age. They usually have one joey each year, but not all females breed each year. Some produce joeys only every two or three years.
In good habitat in the wild, male Koalas live for about 10 years, while females may live a few years longer. However, Koalas in suburban areas might only survive for a few weeks, months or years, because of the dangers of having to contend with cars and dogs, and of having to live in damaged habitat.