Rumors say koala fingerprints have confused crime scene investigators in Australia. Here’s what we found


There have been documented cases of koala fingerprints confusing crime scene investigators because they resemble human fingerprints.


Assessment: unfounded

Assessment: unfounded

Over the years, posts circulating on platforms like Instagram and iFunny have claimed that koala fingerprints found at crime scenes in Australia have confused investigators due to their similarity to those of humans.

For example, in April 2024, a message from the X account @Fact said: “Koala fingerprints are almost indistinguishable from those of a human and are sometimes confused at a crime scene.”

The same claim was made on Facebook in 2022 by the account of TV network Animal Planet:

While it is true that koalas have fingerprints similar to those of humans, the claim that crime scene investigators confused the two is unfounded; we found no evidence to support this.

These adorable marsupials native to Australia have long been a subject of fascination, not only because of their cuddly appearance, but also because of their unique physiological properties.

Research conducted in the mid-1990s by scientists at the University of Adelaide found that koalas have unique fingerprints that are remarkably similar to those of humans. These fingerprints serve several functions, including helping them grasp leaves to eat while climbing trees, and facilitating sensory perception.

In the study, researchers examined the edges and whorls of koala fingerprints using a scanning electron microscope and found that their fingerprints rival those of humans in terms of their complexity and individuality.

This similarity led to the idea that crime scene investigators might mistake koala fingerprints for those of a human, if koala prints were present at the scene of a crime.

Maciej Henneberg, professor of anthropological and comparative anatomy at the University of Adelaide, explained to The Independent in 1996: ‘Although it is extremely unlikely that koala prints will be found at the scene of a crime, police should at least be aware of possibility.”

To find out more, Snopes spoke to Gemma Steingold, a former wildlife nurse and zookeeper at Taronga Conservation Society Australia, who has two decades of experience caring for native wildlife.

“I have worked with sick and injured koalas, both in captivity and in the wild,” Steingold told Snopes. “I have also quarantined healthy koalas entering and leaving the zoo.”

Explaining why koalas have hands and feet instead of paws, Steingold said, “The difference between hands and paws is having an opposable thumb. Considering that both digits one and two are opposable, this tells us that koalas have hands .”

Koala hands adapted to an arboreal lifestyle spent mainly in eucalyptus trees. These specialized limbs, equipped with five fingers and sharp claws, facilitate grasping branches and smoothly navigating their habitat. The presence of opposable thumbs allows koalas to manipulate eucalyptus leaves for feeding, while their hind legs, which lack functional thumbs, serve mainly for propulsion while climbing.

“Great apes also have somewhat similar fingerprints to humans. However, koalas and humans share the most similar prints,” Steingold said, adding that while it is possible that the fingerprints of humans and koalas have been momentarily mistaken in some forensic settings, they “are not consciously of being mistaken” at crime scenes, due to important differences between size and shape.

In 2018, journalist Chantel Tattoli, as part of her Paris Review article on “The Surprising History (and Future) of Fingerprints,” investigated the claim of confusion at koala crime scenes. According to New South Wales Police Senior Sgt. Peter Hennessy:

“While it would make a good story, unfortunately I have never heard of Australian Crime Scene Examiners mistaking a koala’s fingerprints for those of a human.”

Even if we allow the human-like fingerprints of koalas to theoretically pose a challenge to forensic investigators, especially in regions of Australia where koalas are abundant, forensic technology continues to evolve, allowing scientists to better distinguish between human and koala fingerprints.

Snopes has previously investigated other quirky claims about animals, including the viral video of a man punching a kangaroo to save a dog and an alleged photo of a hedgehog skeleton.


Burrel, Ian. “Koalas make a monkey of the police | The Independent.” The independentDecember 7, 1996.

Facebook. Accessed May 6, 2024.

Henneberg, M., et al. “Fingerprint homoplasia: koalas and humans.” Http://Naturalscience.Com/Ns/Artikelen/01-04/Ns_hll.Html1997.

“Koala, facts and photos.” AnimalsApril 11, 2010,

Koalas have fingerprints that are almost identical to ours. September 21, 2022,

“Koalas have fingerprints, just like humans.” Office for Science and Society, Accessed May 6, 2024.

“Physical Characteristics of the Koala.” Australian Koala Foundation, Accessed May 6, 2024.

venerable poononym. “Koala fingerprints are so similar to humans that even crime scene investigators have been confused by them. KOALA HUMAN Nick Morrow @NRMorrow Wait what kind of crime scene has both.” iFunny, Accessed May 6, 2024.

Zoeten-Shults, Lana. “Senior Forensic Science Projects Examined.” GCU NewsNovember 2, 2022,

“Taronga Conservation Society Australia.” Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Accessed May 6, 2024.

Tattoli, Chantel. “The Surprising History (and Future) of Fingerprints.” The Paris ReviewMay 15, 2018,

“You may be cute and furry, but you’re stolen.” New scientist, Accessed May 6, 2024.

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