Have you been to the San Diego Zoo lately?
There’s a new exhibit that you don’t want to miss. The Australian Outback.The Australian Outback offers habitats for the Zoo’s Queensland koalas, parma wallabies, two wombat species and 23 species of Australian birds.
The Zoo started plans to expand and diversify the koala area in 2009 and spent $7.4 million to create the new habitat for Australian animals. The entrance of the exhibit, off of the Zoo’s Front Street, features Aboriginal-inspired totem poles depicting Australian animals including a koala, kangaroo and kookaburra. Just beyond the totems are three aviaries and exhibits for wombats and wallabies. On the other side of Front Street, at the center of the 3-acre exhibit, is the Queenslander house, reminiscent of the architectural style of houses in Queensland, Australia.
The building has large windows, allowing guest to watch keepers as they prepare food for the koalas, look into the large, walk-in cooler that keeps the eucalyptus fresh and peek into a classroom where students of all ages can learn about animals from “down under.”
From the deck that wraps around the Queenslander house, guests will have great views of the koalas perched at eye level as they eat or sleep — koalas can sleep up to 22 hours a day. There are 10 individual enclosures for the male koalas and two larger enclosures for female koalas with their joeys (babies). The San Diego Zoo is home to 21 Queensland koalas ranging in age from 8 months to 17 years old.
The San Diego Zoo has the largest breeding colony of Queensland koalas outside of Australia. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are studying koala populations both at the Zoo and in the wild to better understand the species’ complex ecology and mating behaviors.
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.
The Conrad Prebys Australian Outback also features 4,000 square feet of aviaries for 23 species of Australian birds including the kookaburra, fawn-breasted bowerbird, palm cockatoo, Gouldian finch, and scarlet-chested parrot.
The koalas in their new exhibit can be viewed live, online, with the San Diego Zoo’s Koala Cam. The live broadcast of the exhibit is focused on female koalas, some with joeys. There is a link to the Koala Cam at the Zoo’s new website www.sandiegozoo.org/koalafornia/.
The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The Conservancy makes possible the wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) of the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.