A koala at Sydney's Taronga Zoo

Photo: Stephanie Snipes

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Koala
At Taronga Zoo, visitors can also get within arm's reach of Australia's beloved marsupial, the koala. Becky Usmar, a trainer who works in the Koala Encounter exhibit, clears up some common myths about these adorable balls of fur.

“The common [myth] is that they are bears,” Becky says. “Koalas actually do resemble bears, but they are actually a marsupial species, which means, theoretically, human beings are more related to a bear species than any koala is.”

Go inside Taronga Zoo's Koala Encounter with Becky. Watch

And, no, koalas are not “drunk” or “high” on eucalyptus leaves. “Koalas do need to sleep for about 20 hours every single day, so that’s what spreads the myths around,” Becky says. “If you look up what makes eucalyptus, it has lots of water, but it doesn’t have much energy in it. It’s the equivalent of you or I trying to live off of lettuce. ... When koalas are awake, they spend a lot of their energy eating their food and digesting it, and then by the time they finish eating, they are ready to go have a nap again.”

In fact, koalas eat so many of these leaves, they take on a distinctive odor from eucalyptus oil similar to cough drops.
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