Koalas have large, hairy ears. They have especially sharp claws, which help them climb trees. They are marsupials, meaning they carry their babies in an opening of skin on the mother's stomach. The animals are native to Australia, and are described in many Aboriginal stories of creation.
Over the last 20 years, the koala population in New South Wales has fallen by 25 percent. About 36,000 koalas remain. The animals' numbers have fallen in other parts of Australia, too.
As part of its plan, the government of New South Wales is setting aside nearly 25,000 hectares of forest where koalas will be able to breed freely.
It will also add more signs to help car drivers avoid koalas that walk into roadways. And, the state will build specially made bridges so that koalas and other wildlife can cross roads while avoiding cars and trucks.
Koalas face several threats, including loss of habitat due to land-clearing, dog attacks and heatwaves. A sexually transmitted disease – chlamydia – is also harming koalas' health.
Gabrielle Upton is the environment minister of New South Wales. She told VOA about her state's plan to set up a group of wildlife hospitals to treat injured and sick koalas. She also said researchers are testing a vaccine that would protect the koalas against chlamydia.
A new koala hospital will open in Port Stephens, north of Sydney. It will join an already existing hospital in the New South Wales town of Port Macquarie, which began treating injured marsupials in the 1970s.
Conservationists have welcomed the idea of opening a second hospital. However, they argue that the government's multi-million dollar plan does not deal with the number-one threat to koalas: land-clearing.
Koala live in trees. They are herbivores, and need forest environments to survive.
I'm Susan Shand.