The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is one of Australia's largest arboreal (tree-dwelling) marsupials. This culturally and ecologically important animal is listed as 'endangered' in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory under the Federal Government's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, as well as the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Koalas have thick, woolly light grey/brown fur that helps protect them from extreme temperatures and rain. They have muscular bodies, very strong forelimbs and soft, textured gripping pads with sharp long claws to help them grip and climb.

In South East Queensland, adult koalas grow up to around 70 centimetres in length from head to bottom and weigh, on average, between 5 and 7 kilograms. Adult males are considerably heavier than females and can reach up to 9 kilograms in the Gold Coast area.

Koalas are widely distributed across eastern Australia, from far north-eastern Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, extending inland to the Brigalow Belt and Mulga Lands of central Queensland, and the tablelands and western slopes and plains of New South Wales.

Koala lifecycle

Koalas are mainly nocturnal and tend to be most active around dawn and dusk (crepuscular). They spend around 18 to 20 hours each day resting to conserve energy, due to the low-energy content of their main diet of eucalyptus leaves.

At birth, koala joeys are blind and furless and about the size of a jellybean (2 to 3 centimetres). They spend the first 6 or 7 months in the safety of the mother's pouch and then ride on her back, continuing to suckle milk until around 12 months of age. Females generally start breeding from around 2 years of age and can produce a maximum of one young per year. A rate of one young every 2 years appears to be more common in the wild.

Koala populations depend on large areas of eucalypt forests and woodlands for reproductive success and long-term sustainability. In areas of adequate habitat, koalas establish and occupy individual 'home ranges'. The peak koala breeding season in our region runs from July to January. Koalas will move around considerably more at this time, as juvenile males seek their own home range and breeding adults seek a mate.


Koalas generally live for about 10 to 14 years in the wild. They survive on a diet of leaves, mainly eucalyptus, which are high in fibre, low in protein and contain compounds that are unpalatable or toxic to most mammals. Koalas, along with greater gliders (Petauroides volans) and common ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), are the only mammals that have evolved to eat this diet.

Preferred koala food trees on the Gold Coast include:

  • forest red gum or Queensland blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis)
  • tallowwood (E. microcorys)
  • swamp mahogany (E. robusta)
  • grey gums (E. propinqua and E. biturbinata).

Important local supplementary food sources include:

  • narrow-leaved red gum (E. seeana)
  • white stringybark (E. tindaliae)
  • red mahogany (E. resinifera)
  • brush box (Lophostemon confertus)
  • broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia).

Koalas on the Gold Coast

Koala populations continue to survive in a few locations east of the Pacific Motorway (M1), with the majority west of the motorway. They have been sighted in a number of conservation areas, including Pimpama River, Wongawallan (Wilkes Scrub), Clagiraba (Lower Beechmont–Mount Nathan), Coombabah, Elanora, Numinbah Valley, Tugun Hill and Upper Mudgeeraba. The City of Gold Coast bought these areas under the Open Space Preservation Levy Acquisition program, which is funded by ratepayers.

Koalas also occur in residential areas, where they are particularly at risk from disease, domestic dogs and traffic. They have been sighted in:

  • Arundel
  • Ashmore
  • Bonogin
  • Burleigh Heads
  • Clagiraba
  • Coombabah
  • Coomera
  • Currumbin
  • Currumbin Valley
  • Currumbin Waters
  • Elanora
  • Gaven
  • Gilston
  • Guanaba
  • Helensvale
  • Highland Park
  • Hollywell
  • Hope Island
  • Labrador
  • Molendinar
  • Mudgeeraba
  • Nerang
  • Numinbah Valley
  • Ormeau
  • Oxenford
  • Pacific Pines
  • Palm Beach
  • Paradise Point
  • Parkwood
  • Pimpama
  • Pine Ridge
  • Reedy Creek
  • Runaway Bay
  • Southport
  • Tallai
  • Tallebudgera
  • Tallebudgera Valley
  • Tugun Hill
  • Upper Coomera
  • Willowvale
  • Wongawallan
  • Worongary.

There are simple things you can do to help reduce threats and ensure the future of koalas on the Gold Coast.