Most people know of koalas as those cute little grey fuzzy creatures from faraway Australia. But soon, Dallas will be home to a couple of the marsupials.
The Dallas Zoo will open its doors on March 10 to two male koalas: 3-year-old Tekin and 5-year-old Kobi. The new Koala Walkabout Exhibit is currently under construction and will be a part of the animals of the Australian Outback area.
The Australian Outback is located near the zoo’s Primate Place section and will shelter rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras alongside the new koalas. The koalas will travel from their current home at the San Diego Zoo to their new home in time for opening day of the exhibit.
The koalas are on a 30-month loan from the San Diego Zoo, but zoo officials hope to keep the koalas for longer. Tekin and Kobi are “very charismatic,” said Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s deputy director for animal conservation and science.
Kramer said the koalas’ new home was designed with help from Australian koala conservationists and the San Diego Zoo, which has its own koala exhibit. Kramer does not think it will be difficult for the koalas to adjust to their new habitat because the San Diego Zoo staff has been involved in the enclosure’s development.
Koalas live in woodland areas, eucalypt forests, or on the coastal islands off Australia. They depend on other koalas to survive and tend to live in large areas. Koalas are territorial and are known as feisty creatures.
Tekin and Kobi will be the first koalas in the zoo’s history. “We are very excited to make it possible for our community to see them first hand and learn more about them,” said Michael Meadows, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoological Society.
The zoo will launch the exhibit with a major buzz. “We are holding a public grand opening event to generate excitement,” said Karen Hamilton, senior vice president of the Dallas Zoological Society.
The zoo will be placing street pole banners around Dallas to promote the opening of the exhibit. The promotion also includes bus wraps, online advertising, radio advertising and print advertising.
Zoo officials say they are expecting to have their hands full keeping the koalas healthy and happy.
Since koalas consume most of their water and nutrients by eating eucalyptus leaves, the zoo must stock up on the leaves. The animal nutrition center at the zoo will restock the branches twice a week.
Due to the sedative effects of the leaves, the koalas will be asleep for about 20 hours every day.
“The two koalas are always ensured of being comfortable,” said Susan Eckert, the public relations director and spokesperson for the Dallas Zoo.
The koalas may be high maintenance, but the zoo strongly believes the costs are worth it.
“Although koalas are very expensive animals to care for, we believe it is important to underwrite opportunities like this so our guests can see, appreciate and connect with them,” said Meadows.
Chris Brown, the zoo’s curator of birds, said it is important to house the rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras near the koalas’ home because they play an important role in balancing the ecosystem in Australia.
“The interactive and interpretive opportunities surrounding these Australian animals and how they are linked together will be new,” Brown said.
Guests will also be encouraged to walk over to see the laughing kookaburras located in front of the kangaroo, emu and wallaby habitat.