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Lowry Park Zoo welcomes its first koala

TAMPA— He told his online followers to go see him in all his cuteness. And there he was, sleeping.

Bundaleer, a Queensland koala and the latest attraction to the Lowry Park Zoo, made his debut Monday before groups of families and kids in zoo camp.

Zookeepers had documented his trip last week on Facebook and Twitter.

He may still be recovering from the 2,000-mile plane ride from the San Diego Zoo, which loaned him to Lowry. Then again, he sleeps up to 20 hours a day anyway.

The coolest spot at the zoo is in his humidity-controlled building where it's about 73 degrees. Sweaty kids looked on.

They learned:

He's a marsupial, not a bear.

He eats eucalyptus leaves, not bamboo.

He doesn't move much.

"I was expecting for him to be awake and just to go wild," said Colin McCabe, 8.

"I thought he was going to jump around like a kangaroo," said Jared Valdes, 8.

And the 16-pound koala is bigger than 8-year-old David Price expected. The group of best friends, with koala masks, liked him anyway. They ate frosted koala cake.

Bundaleer's name means "among the trees" in Aborigine. His presence rounds out the zoo's 4.5-acre Australian-themed area known as Wallaroo Station. He also represents the zoo's support of Australian conservation efforts through a partnership with the San Diego Zoo, said acting Lowry Park chief executive Craig Pugh.

"People think they're cute and cuddly and want to snuggle with you, and that's not exactly accurate," said assistant curator Chris Massaro.

It's more like they tolerate people, Massaro said.

Hetal Rajguru drove her daughters about 45 minutes from Lakeland to see her favorite animal. They reached the front of the line in time.

Bundaleer moved. He went from behind a shrub of leaves to another branch. Some gasped. Some pointed. Most smiled.

"Oh, he looks like a teddy bear," Rajguru said.

"Ooh! He's so slow," said Ishali, peering from under her Dora the Explorer cap.

Bundaleer hugged another branch. He stayed there.

Find the koala's tweets

Visit for twitter.com/LowryParkZoo for pictures and updates.

Lowry Park Zoo welcomes its first koala 06/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:43am]
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