Iconic Species Brings a Bit of Australia to the Syracuse Zoo
Koalas are as iconic as they are rare. These big-eared Australian marsupials are known throughout the world for their charming smiles and sleepy demeanors. Like big-name Hollywood celebrities, everyone is familiar with koalas, yet most people have never had the opportunity to see one in person.
All that changes this summer, when two of these arboreal A-listers come to Syracuse! The two female koalas, Kumiri and Kolet, will be welcomed at Koala Outpost — their temporary residence at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.
With the support from the Friends of the Zoo, the two koalas arrived in May 2023 from the Koala Conservation and Education Loan Program, which seeks to educate the public and encourage people to care about this amazing species. Participation in the program helps generate funding to support San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance research and conservation initiatives in collaboration with our koala conservation partners around the world.
"Featuring a new species at the zoo is always something to look forward to, but when they are as rare as these koalas, the anticipation becomes exhilarating," said Friends Executive Director Carrie Large. "These koalas give us the chance to fulfill our conservation mission by providing care to an increasingly vulnerable species while educating the public to help connect them to care about all wildlife."
Koalas are native to the forests of Australia where their populations are declining rapidly. Once numbered in millions, wild koala populations have decreased to an estimated 43,000-80,000. This decline is attributed to their loss of habitat from deforestation and devastating forest fires in Australia. As arboreal animals, when koalas lose their trees, they lose their homes and will wander in search of food and shelter. This displacement is detrimental to koalas and can cause them to get hit by cars, be killed by dogs or succumb to diseases that further dwindle their populations.
“Koalas are rare in American zoos. Only 10 zoos in the United States are permitted to care for koalas by the Australian government and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Ted Fox, the executive director of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. “The temporary acquisition of these koalas is an important milestone in our zoo’s conservation mission, and speaks to the expertise and qualifications of our animal care team. Thanks to the Friends of Zoo, we can provide care to these remarkable animals while educating our zoo family as well.”
Koala Outpost will feature engaging educational signage so guests can learn more about these endangered animals. The zoo will offer daily keeper chats and opportunities to see our koalas dining on their unique diet of eucalyptus leaves! Australian-themes will be incorporated throughout the zoo’s educational programs, events and activities.
Zoo guests will be able to visit the koalas daily until early September with regular paid admission. Members receive free admission. Keep an eye out for announcements of special events in honor of our herbivores from San Diego!
Please note, the koalas will not be immediately visible to the public as they acclimate to their new summer home. Please watch our social media for regular updates and the official Koala Outpost exhibit opening date.