TAMPA — The koala arriving here tonight is a first for Lowry Park Zoo.
It's also the first opportunity for the zoo to document an animal's trip on social networking Web sites including Twitter and Facebook. Followers are excited to be involved, said Rachel Nelson, a zoo spokeswoman.
The Queensland koala posted to the zoo's Twitter feed ( twitter.com/LowryParkZoo ) this morning: "G'Day mates! Bundaleer the koala here. We're off to the airport and on our way to Tampa, FL!"
The 10-year-old male will live in Wallaroo Station, the zoo's 4.5-acre Australian-themed area. His exhibit opens Monday after a rest and transition period.
"I can't think of a better ambassador for our area than the koala," Nelson said
Bundaleer is bringing his bags and eucalyptus leaves. He said so on Twitter.
He's riding in a large pet carrier on two coach passenger seats in an American Airlines plane. His name is on his boarding pass. There's a picture on Twitter.
Someone on the plane called him a bear. Wrong. He's a marsupial. He hopes someone warned the flight attendants that he eats only eucalyptus leaves. They smell like cough drops.
"American Airlines has customized cushions — just like me!" he posted. "Since koalas sit in trees all day we have extra thick fur on our bottoms."
The airline donated the costs for his travel, and the zoo will pay for his care while in Tampa, Nelson said.
Koalas live 15 to 20 years. This is his second trip to Florida, and he'll be one of the few koalas in Florida zoos.
The status updates from Bundaleer will slow down once he settles into his new exhibit near the kangaroos. He sleeps 20 hours a day. He eats for three.
He'll have his own exhibit with low humidity because he's used to the dry heat of San Diego. He's on loan.
Ileana Morales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403.