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The mystery of koalas unraveled


Why are koalas always sleeping? Don’t koalas have tails? Are koalas bears? To answer questions about koalas from members of the public, Taipei Zoo organizes educational talks at its Koala House every Thursday and Saturday at 11am. Koala keepers have even made illustrated books to help visitors gain quick and in-depth knowledge about the animal.

The staple diet of koalas is Eucalyptus leaves, which are rich in fiber but low in calories. In order to conserve energy, koalas spend most of their time resting and can sleep 18 to 20 hours a day. For anyone who wants to see a koala “in action,” a good time to visit the koalas would be at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, when keepers bring a new supply of Eucalyptus leaves into the enclosure.

The name “koala” originated from a term in an Australian aboriginal dialect, meaning “no drink.” Eucalyptus leaves contain a high amount of moisture, so koalas seldom need to drink water. Nonetheless, the zoo keepers still prepare a bowl of water for the koalas in case they need it.

Furthermore, the koala’s Chinese name, “wuweixiong,” which literally means “tailless bear,” has often caused people to mistake the animal for a bear without a tail. In fact, koalas do have tails. What’s more, they are marsupials, not bears. When they are old enough to leave their mother’s pouch, koala cubs have relatively noticeable tails, while adult koalas have long hair which often conceals their tails.

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