Prof Koala Clancy here to educate you all about koalas!
You’ve no doubt heard that male koalas have a scent gland: a dark-edged bare patch on our chests. But there is a lot of confusion about what a koala scent gland looks like.
Look at these two photographs. Both are adult males with fully-formed scent glands. Its pretty obvious isn’t it?
This is Winberry, the dominant male. He is at least 12 years old now.
Then look at this image below. This is a female, and that crease on her chest is not a scent gland – its just a crease in the fur. Notice it has no brown colouring at all, and there’s no stain down her belly.
Got that? Great. Now I’m going to throw a spanner in the works!
Male scent glands take years to form. So when a koala is young, it can be hard to tell male from female. I’ll use myself as an example.
In this pic, I’m only a baby – 19 months old. My scent gland is not much more than a female-like crease in the fur. But notice, it does have a brown colour.
Here I am again, at 20 months: Even when I was stretched out, there wasn’t much to it, was there?
And here I am as a 3 year old. Brown-edged, and now some bare skin showing:
At 5 and a half years old, I am entering my prime breeding age and my scent gland is large, dark and obvious:
And now, at over 6 years old my scent gland reaches all the way down my belly, and the bare skin in the centre is plain to see:
So how can you tell if a koala with a crease in their chest is a young male, or an adult female? Its not easy is it?
First, figure out whether you’re looking at a full adult or a very young koala. Very young koalas (1-2year old) are usually smaller than adults. They have chubby faces, smooth thick fur that is usually grey, not brown. They look more like teddy bears at this age than any other. In this photo Cuddles is about 11 months old:
Then, once you’ve established that you’re looking at a young koala have a really good look. Boys always have two items that girls don’t have. Testes! They are obvious from a very young age. Can you see them in this pic of me?
If the koala is a full grown adult, and the crease on their chest is small, light-coloured and shows no bare skin – then it must be a female.
Sometimes a koala won’t show their chest or their bottoms, and then you just have to guess. Or wait – koalas move on average every 30 minutes. If you wait long enough you’ll eventually see.
So here’s a test. Based on everything you’ve learned, are the following 3 photos of adult females or young male koalas? Please answer in the comments and I’ll tell you if you’re a Koala Expert!