Do Koalas Eat Bamboo?


This comprehensive post is about whether Koalas eat bamboo or not. We have researched this topic in-depth and we have answers for you. If you are interested in the answers, this post is for you.

Do Koalas eat bamboo? Koalas are not one of the animals that eat bamboo. Animals that eat bamboo include giant pandas, red pandas, mountain gorillas, bamboo lemurs, chimpanzees, and Asian elephants. Although koalas are distant relatives of pandas, they don’t eat bamboo like pandas. They feed mostly on eucalyptus tree leaves and eat the tree’s flowers and barks once in a while. 

Koalas sleep for about 18 hours daily and use most of the remaining 6 hours to eat. A Koala usually doesn’t have the time to find other food sources apart from the eucalyptus tree on which it lives. Conversely, pandas and bamboo lemurs eat only bamboo. A few other animals, like chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and Asian elephants eat bamboo too, but they have other sources of food. As you read on, you will learn more about these different animals.

Which Animals Eat Bamboo Exclusively?

Giant pandas, bamboo lemurs, and red pandas eat bamboo almost exclusively. Bamboo is virtually the only food these animals eat, and it supplies all the nutrients they need for sustenance and growth. What’s more, bamboo synthesizes cyanide, which could be deadly for living organisms. But these animals have evolved biochemical mechanisms to handle this deadly compound.

In the section that follows, we will talk about the feeding habits of giant pandas, bamboo lemurs, and red pandas.

Giant Pandas

Bamboo accounts for about 99 percent of the giant panda’s diet. They eat soft bamboo stems, shoots, roots, and leaves, consuming as much as 12 to 15 kg of bamboo daily. Of all bamboo parts, the shoots are the favorite parts for giant pandas. They love young bamboo leaves a lot too. 

Giant pandas eat 25 bamboo species. But they may not have access to all of these 25 species, depending on what species grow in their environment. However, more than one bamboo species must be available to giant pandas because of bamboos’ reproduction cycle. Bamboo species have seasons where they flower and die out. If there are no other species around for giant pandas to eat in such seasons, they may starve and die.

Science News says that giant pandas gnaw on lowland bamboo species for eight months out of the 12 months in a year. In these 8 months, they look for new shoots, which are very rich in protein whenever they’re available. New shoots contain 32% protein while bamboo leaves contain only 19%protein. In the remaining 4 months, giant pandas go to high altitudes to look for other bamboo species whose shots are also rich in protein.

Bamboo Lemur

Bamboo lemurs (or gentle lemurs) eat bamboo almost exclusively, and that’s where they got their name. They eat bamboo species mostly in damp forests, which is their natural habitat.

Bamboo lemurs sleep a lot too and are active mostly around dawn. They spend most of their time on the trees, and rarely come down. So they don’t have the time to look for other food sources. Their system has evolved to detoxify high concentrations of cyanide. Experts are still trying to understand this special detoxification mechanism.

Red Panda

The red panda’s diet is made up of 85-95% bamboo. They mostly eat bamboo species that grow in temperate, high-altitude forests. Red pandas are much more selective than giant pandas. While giant pandas eat most parts of the bamboo that grow above the ground, red pandas only eat highly nutritious parts. 

The bamboo part that red pandas love the most is leaf tips. They also eat young bamboo shoots, when available. Sometimes, they also eat insects, fruits, grubs, and succulent grasses.

Are Pandas The Only Animals That Eat Bamboo?

Pandas are not the only animals that eat bamboo. Some other herbivores and omnivores also eat bamboo. Mountain gorillas and Asian elephants are common herbivores known to eat bamboo as a part of their diet. Bamboo is very rich in sugar and gives these herbivore animals lots of energy. But unlike pandas and bamboo lemurs, mountain gorillas and Asian elephants don’t eat an exclusive bamboo diet.

Herbivorous animals are animals that eat plants alone, while omnivores eat both plants and animals. All the animals that eat bamboo exclusively are herbivores, except for giant pandas. Experts have found that the digestive tract of giant pandas is that of a carnivore (animals that eat only animal diet), but the animal has evolved to live on bamboos (plant) exclusively.

✅ Video – How Do Pandas Exist?

Giant pandas are biologically carnivores. Their digestive system is designed for meat only, but these animals have chosen to be vegetarians. 99 percent of what they eat is bamboo. But then, how do they survive on this kind of diet? How have they evolved to love and live exclusively on bamboo? Click the play button and watch the video below for answers.

Aside from giant pandas and the herbivores that eat bamboo exclusively, a few other herbivores love bamboo and include it in their diets. We will talk about two of these animals in the section that follows.

Mountain Gorillas Eat Bamboo

Mountain gorillas are herbivores that eat the leaves, stems, and shoots of bamboo and more than 140 other plant species. They eat plants across various vegetation zones, including bamboo forests where they spend a few months every year. The time they spend in bamboo forests coincides with when fresh shoots grow.

Asian Elephants Eat Bamboo

Asian elephants are very large land animals that eat various plants, including bamboo and some other 100+ plant species. Because of their huge size, Asian elephants also consume lots of food. They can eat as much as 150kg of plants daily.

Elephants eat various bamboo species, but according to Laos Elephants Sanctuary, Asian elephants love Mai Roak Bamboos the most. They eat every part of this bamboo species, including the shoots, stems, leaves, and even seedlings.

Do Omnivores Eat Bamboo?

Omnivores, such as chimpanzees, love eating bamboo. But although chimpanzees are omnivores, they live almost exclusively on plants. Only 1% of what chimpanzees eat is meat and just 4% is made of insects. The remaining part of their diet is plants.

The Chimpanzee’s diet is very diverse and includes a wide variety of food sources. These include fruits, insects, leaves, tree seeds, blossoms, bark, and various nuts. Chimpanzees eat 60% fruits in their diet but they also love thermites and other insects. They rarely eat meat but they can also eat, digest, and get nutrients from meats.

They love eating bamboo too, but it is not a major part of their diet. Aside from eating bamboo, chimpanzees scoop out termites from mounds with bamboo rods. Do you have termites on your property? You can also check out this article that discusses if termites eat bamboo for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Do Zebras Eat Bamboo?

Zebras eat bamboo, but they eat many other things as well. Zebras are herbivores and they eat the branches, leaves, and twigs of several tree species. They will eat bamboo where it is available for their nourishment. But then, their favorite plant to eat is Mulberry. Aside from Mulberry Anne bamboo, another popular food for Zebras is honeysuckle.

Can Humans Eat Bamboo?

Bamboo shoots are edible for humans, and they are good because they contain low fat and have only a few calories. They also contain lots of potassium and fiber. What’s more, they are easy to plant, grow, harvest, and are highly renewable. But you must cook them before eating, else they’ll be bitter. 

Can Bamboo Kill You?

Humans can eat bamboo shoots but they could be deadly if they are not properly processed and cooked. While bamboo shoots blend into diverse cuisines, you must cut away the shoot’s fibrous exteriors before cooking it. You should also boil the shoots thoroughly to neutralize their toxins before eating. If you eat bamboo shoots raw, or you don’t boil them thoroughly, the toxins in them will produce cyanide (a poisonous substance) in your gut.

Conclusion

Now, you know that Koalas don’t eat bamboo. But giant pandas, bamboo lemurs, and red pandas cannot do without bamboo. Aside from these animals, other animals that love to eat bamboo include Asian elephants, mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and zebras. Humans can also eat bamboo shoots, but you must remove the fibrous exteriors and boil them very well before eating, else it could be poisonous.

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