PHOENIX — Some new residents of the San Diego Zoo paid a visit to the Good Morning Arizona crew Friday, including the star of the show: a furry koala named Burly.But zoo officials say the first thing that they remind kids is to not to call it a koala ‘bear’.”They’re just koalas,” says Rick Schwartz of the San Diego Zoo. “We come out with the term bears, because you look at that adorable face, he looks like a teddy bear. He’s so cute and has that stuffed animal quality, so we go to that term koala bear.”
But koalas are actually marsupials. “Females have a pouch,” Schwartz tells us. “When they’re born, they’re very underdeveloped; no bigger than a jelly bean. And then they get inside that pouch and finish developing in there, and usually start poking their head out around five to six months.”
The San Diego Zoo has 22 koalas in its population. And the fuzzy friends will be getting some new digs over Memorial Day weekend.
“They’re getting a brand new home starting May 23,” Schwartz told Kaley O’Kelley and Scott Pasmore. “It’s our Australian Outback exhibit.”
The three acre exhibit cost more than $7.4 million to build. It will feature the largest koala colony outside of Australia (currently 22 koalas), as well as other marsupials like wombats and wallabies. There will even be an egg-laying mammal, the short-nosed echidna.
The aviaries of the Australian Outback exhibit will contain exotic feathered creatures like Gouldian finches, bowerbirds and cockatoos native to Australia. You can also listen for the laughing Kookaburra, a bird with a very distinctive call.
The Good Morning Arizona crew got to meet a Kookaburra named Matilda on Friday. She made her presence known with her outspoken call! It’s no wonder this bird is called the “Bushman’s alarm clock.”
When you visit the Australian Outback exhibit, you can get an up-close look at how the creatures live day-to-day. Visitors can watch how the keepers care for the koalas, as the koala kitchen will be view-able to the public. As keepers prepare meals of eucalyptus, guests can see the entire process.
Koalas are native to southeastern and eastern Australia and rely on eucalyptus forests for food and protection, as they live in the trees and eat only eucalyptus leaves.
Koalas are sedentary animals that sleep a lot while digesting their food. Being on the ground puts koalas at a disadvantage because predators can catch them easily; instead, they live in trees, seated in the fork of branches where they can chew leaves and nap all they want without feeling threatened.
Unfortunately, due to habitat fragmentation, many koalas lose their lives moving from one patch of forest to another.
Want to watch these cute creatures from your home computer? You can! The San Diego Zoo is broadcasting the activities of four Queensland koalas on its new Koala Cam. There is a link to the Koala Cam at the Zoo’s new website.
Story By Tami Hoey azfamily.com.