In this week’s Wild Encounters, the cuteness meter is off the charts for an animal that costs more than any other to feed. Here’s Micah Rumsey and the koala. Here’s the conversation Micah had with Senior Mammal Keeper for Cat/Bear, Jessica Kinzer.
Micah: Welcome back to another edition of Wild Encounters. We’re going with one of the cutest and fuzziest animals in the animal kingdom and behind us that is the koala. I’m here with Jessica so tell us a little bit about the koala we have here.
Jessica: So this is Lottie. Lottie is our resident mom koala so she’s had quite a bit of kids over the years. She’s about fifteen years old and right now we have one of her offspring who is about a year and half also at the zoo.
Micah: The koala here is an animal from Australia that is not a bear and we’re going to clear that information up. What is a koala if it’s not a bear?
Jessica: Right. So koalas get the name koala bear because they look like teddy bears but they’re actually not related to bears at all. They’re marsupials so their closest relative is the wombat but they’re also related to kangaroos and wallabies and that sort of animal.
Micah: Alright, so we’ve cleared that up but they’re also famous for their eating and relaxing up in the trees. What do they eat and why is that special here?
Jessica: So koalas eat eucalyptus and only eucalyptus and we have it shipped overnight twice a week, every week, all year long. What’s interesting about the koalas is despite how little they are, they’re actually the most expensive animal in the zoo to feed. It costs about $30,000 to $40,000 a year to feed each koala.
Micah: So that is a picky, expensive date for you right there when it comes to a koala. You said you have the multiple animals here on exhibit and folks can get right up close here to see them.
Jessica: Yeah, it’s actually pretty close. This is one of the zoos in the country where you don’t have any barriers between you and the koalas except a half fence so you can see them without any mesh between, without any glass in between, and you can get maybe about ten to fifteen feet away from them, maybe closer if they’re sitting in the right spot.
Micah: These animals tend to sit up here in the trees. They kind of chill for a while. They eat a lot. They can move pretty quickly on the ground too, right?
Jessica: Yeah, so they avoid going in the ground in the wild, but because we’re in captivity and it’s safe here, there’s no predators, they’ll come on the ground occasionally and they can be faster than you think they are. They also, surprisingly, can jump from limb to limb so they can jump up to about three feet or so which is always surprising to see a koala do.
Micah: So if you come down here to Riverbanks Zoo, you can see them right up close. We actually have a whole audience here watching from behind camera, a bunch of kids here on a field trip. So maybe if we watch long enough, we’ll see Lottie take a leap. Otherwise, come down here to Riverbanks Zoo and see it for yourself. We’ll see you next time.