Break out the cigars. ZooTampa finally knows the gender of its new baby koala.
It’s a boy, and the baby pictures are adorable. The healthy baby koala, known as a joey, is the first koala ever born at the zoo
“Tampa’s newest furry resident has officially fully emerged from its mother’s pouch at ZooTampa at Lowry Park allowing the zoo’s veterinary staff to conduct a health checkup and identify its gender and it’s a boy!” the zoo said in a news release.
Once an embryo the size of a jelly bean, the joey has spent the last seven months in mom Ceduna’s pouch with dad Heathcliff nearby. The joey has been named Sydney by Rod and Kim Stohler, who won the naming rights following a “generous donation” at the zoo’s annual Karamu fundraising gala.
ZooTampa is the only zoological facility on the west coast of Florida to care for koalas. The marsupial family is part of the zoo’s effort to conserve koalas through the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Guests can catch a glimpse of Ceduna with Sydney clinging to her back or belly. Sydney will stay close to his mother until he turns 1 and can begin climbing trees on his own, the zoo said.
Koalas are mammals and marsupials. They differ from other mammals because their newborns develop inside mothers’ pouches instead of a womb. Initially, a joey is blind and earless and relies on natural instincts and strong senses of touch and smell to find its way from the birth canal to its mother’s pouch, the zoo said.
In conjunction with the reveal of the joey, ZooTampa is opening a new playground structure for kids later this month called Koala Klubhouse in the Wallaroo section of the zoo.
One of Australia’s most iconic animals, koalas live primarily in forests and woodlands dominated by eucalyptus plants, according to information released from the zoo. Though poisonous to other species, specialized bacteria in a koala’s digestive tract enables it to break down the plant’s toxins and rely heavily on eucalyptus for its food. Mature koalas spend up to five hours feeding on the plant leaves every day. For this solitary species, the rest of the day is spent sleeping. Up to 95 percent of a koala’s life is spent by itself.
In large part because of Australia’s national pride in the species, koalas have survived the threat of extinction from habitat loss and hunting, ZooTampa said.
“We are proud to support conservation initiatives both at home and beyond,” said Larry Killmar, senior vice president and chief zoological officer at ZooTampa. “Our partnership with the Australian government allows us to support the goals and objectives of the Koala Species Survival Plan.”