Why Does A Koala Have A Back To Front Pouch? Let Me Explain

Koalas are one of the most iconic Australian animals. Learn about their families, habitats and diet.

Koalas have a very unique pouch, the shape of which is much like a back to front pouch.

They are also called Eucalyptus Koalas.

Why Does A Koala Have A Back To Front Pouch Let Me Explain

Many people across the world are very fascinated by Koalas because they are extremely cute and interesting creatures.

But the question today is more about their pouches and why it is back to front which is different from other animals!

This guide will be outlining everything you need to know about their pouches and some of the interesting facts surrounding them.

Do Koala Bears Have Pouches?

Koala bears in Australia are well known for their large, flat noses that are used for rooting for food in trees.

But do koalas have pouches like dolphins and big cats do? YES! Koala’s do have pouches where they keep their young until they are ready to enter the world.

They protect their young at all costs and their pouches are a huge part of this. They are very vulnerable when they are born and they need to be kept safe in the pouch until around 22 weeks.

What Is Unusual About The Koalas Pouch?

Even though both the Koala and the kangaroo both have pouches for their babies, they work very differently.

This is because a Kangaroo’s pouch is further up their body and opens upwards, whereas a koala’s pouch opens backwards and downwards.

This is because they do not want their baby to fall out when they are climbing high up in the trees.

It is all to do with how they have adapted to their environment and keeping their baby safe while getting on with their day and finding food.

Pouch Opening

It is very clever the ways in which pouches work on certain animals.

We know kangaroos have pouches and wombats but are they the same.

The answer is no! Kangaroos have pouches where you can see the joey out of the top and they are facing the same way as the mother.

This is because they are on the ground a lot more and it is safe to do so.

Koalas are different because they spend a lot of their time in the trees, high up. Therefore, it would not be safe for the baby koala to be so exposed at heights of trees.

This is why they have backward facing pouches.


Due to the fact that they have an upside down pouch, they have a special sphincter muscle on the edge of the pouch.

This works by the koala tightening the opening of the pouch when they are climbing in the trees to protect their baby and to increase their safety.

This muscle is also very useful because it is keeping the babies cold in the colder months when closed. Other animals are able to do this as well but cannot hold the baby in.

Inside The Pouch

It is not the mom who does all of the work because the baby has a fair share of work to do too to actually stay inside.

When koalas are born, they are only about ¾ inch long where they must crawl into the pouch from the birth canal.

The baby koala also has to cling on inside of the pouch to the fur lining.

The baby also has to attach the mouth onto one of the teats which will swell up allowing the baby to hang on until big enough to venture outside.

Time Inside The Pouch

Most baby koalas will spend quite a bit of time in the punch until they are able to step out into the wild.

They can be in there for up to 22 weeks. They keep their eyes closed while they are developing their fur in this time up until they open their eyes and start poking their heads out of the pouch.

When they reach up to 30 weeks old, they will be coming in and out of the pouch to eat and sleep only.

They start learning how to survive outside of the pouch at this point and will start clinging more to their moms bellies and back.

The pouches are very important all the way up to 36 weeks. The baby koala will still be very attached to their mother until they are a year old.

Even though they do not use the pouches after this time, they will still stay very close to their mother and nurse.

Their Diet In The Pouch

Why Does A Koala Have A Back To Front Pouch

Up until they are able to leave the pouch, the baby koala is dependent on their mothers milk to survive.

However, as they start to develop and pop their heads out of the pouch, they are introduced to something new called ‘pap’.

This is something the mother will produce as well as milk. The pap comes from the mother’s caecum.

When the Koala starts becoming mature, they will only feed off eucalyptus leaves.

However, they will only eat 50 different types of these leaves out of about 700 different types.

How Do Koalas Clean Their Pouches?

Koalas are famously known for their pouches. They have adapted many different ways of cleaning these pouches.

They have a self-activated cleaning system with secreting droplets of an antimicrobial liquid which will clean the pouch.

Due to where the pouch is, they need this system to keep it clean as they are unable to do it themselves.

What Is Inside The Koala Pouch?

Koalas have a pouch on their stomach, made of skin, that is used as a food storage. There are few other animals that use their stomachs as a food storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Unusual About The Koalas Pouch?

Koalas have a pouch that is located at the base of their bellies.

This pouch is called their “pouch”, “marsupium”, “marsupial purse” or “marsupial pregnancy”. The pouch allows the koala to carry around their young and because they open outwards, nothing can fall out.

What Animal Has A Pouch That Faces Backwards?

A pouch is an anatomical structure found in various mammals that serves to store and protect the young; it is commonly associated with marsupials, in which the young develop within a temporary ‘sac’ within the mother’s uterus. However, some mammals, such as the platypus, have external pouches too.


Overall, there are several reasons why koalas have backwards pouches for the safety of their joey and to keep them protected while they are up in the trees.

They also have a special muscle which allows the mother to open and close the pouch to prevent the baby from escaping and falling.

Like every other animal, they have adapted to their environment and have formed special actions to protect their babies.

The koala, a marsupial native to Australia, possesses a unique back-to-front pouch. This specialized pouch, similar to other marsupials like kangaroos, shelters the joey and has two teats where the young ones nurse.

Female mother koalas Live have strong sphincter muscles, protecting the koala joey. They rely on this pouch to keep their offspring safe while foraging eucalyptus leaves, their primary diet. 

The Australian Koala Foundation highlights the unique anatomical aspect of female koalas, including an opposable fork aiding in nurturing. The mother’s pouch, with a sense of smell, secretes a substance called, an addition to milk. This adaptation supports the young after birth, critical for koalas on the Red List.

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand exactly why the Koalas’ pouch is the way it is and why the functions are beneficial.

All animals are different and they have specific functions from how they have adapted in their own environment.

Olivia Kepner