TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - For the first time at ZooTampa’s history, a koala baby was born.
The koala joey recently peeked out of its mother’s pouch. Zoo staff said the joey started out as a jellybean-sized embryo before making its journey to is mom’s pouch, where it will complete its final stages of development.
Its mother, Ceduna, arrived at ZooTampa in 2015, and its father, Healthclif, arrived in 2014. Zoo officials said koalas are often referred to as bears, but they technically are not.
“Koalas are marsupials that differ from other mammals because their newborns develop inside mothers’ pouches instead of a womb,” according to a press release. “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.”
Last week, the Australian Koala Foundation said koalas may be “functionally extinct” in Australia and believe there are no more than 80,000 left on the continent. That is about one percent of the 8 million that once thrived.
Ceduna and Heathcliff came to ZooTampa through a conservation effort with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The birth of their new joey is considered to be a success, and the young koala appears to be healthy, they said.
“We are proud to support conservation initiatives both at home and beyond,” said Dr. 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.”
ZooTampa guests can see Ceduna with her joey at their exhibit, Wallaroo Station. When it reaches the age of one, the young koala could then be seen climbing trees on its own.