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Luke is now behind-the-scenes in the Australia exhibit.

Zoo Welcomes a New Koala

Luke the Koala settles in behind-the-scenes at the Zoo. Photo by Natalie Sommer/ABQ BioPark.

December 4, 2012

A male Queensland koala and zookeeper from the Los Angeles Zoo arrived at the ABQ BioPark Zoo last night. The 20-month old koala was born at the L.A. Zoo, and the visiting keeper will assist for several days as the animal transitions to his new home behind-the-scenes in the Zoo's Australia exhibit.

The Zoo is also home to the only Victorian koala in North America. 'Zaki' is also one of the oldest koalas in the country and turns 18 years old in January. He has been in Albuquerque since 1997. Zaki will remain in the koala exhibit's familiar branches as long as possible, being carefully monitored by keepers for age-related health issues. Koalas can live up to 20 years.

"We are excited to welcome this new koala to Albuquerque," said Lynn Tupa, Zoo Manager. "We can be proud that we are one of only a few zoos in the country with the expertise to care for koalas. Stephanie Kain, our senior keeper for the area, has more than 12 years of experience with koalas. She even went to Australia to participate in a field study about wild koalas."

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are a threatened species and protected by Australian law, although habitat loss continues to threaten populations. These marsupials spend most of their lives in trees, where they sleep for 18-19 hours a day.

Koalas are highly adapted to eat eucalyptus, a plant that is toxic to most animals. The BioPark ships in fresh eucalyptus branches twice a week from Arizona and Florida. While there are hundreds of Eucalyptus species, koalas have clear preferences, and we have added Luke's favorite, including Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Eucalyptus robusta, to our regular order.

BioPark supporters on a BioPark Backstage Tour of Australia will have the opportunity to meet Luke the Koala behind-the-scenes. And BioPark visitors can continue to see Zaki the Koala in Australia, along with tree kangaroos, wallabies, budgerigars, kookaburras, lorikeets and the country's only Tasmanian wombats. The exhibit is open to the public from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily and included with regular admission. For more information, email [email protected] or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

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