It’s nearly springtime Down Under at Australia’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and the first Koala joey of the season has emerged from its mother’s pouch.
The male joey is just over five months old and starting peek out at the world. The yet-to-be-named youngster is the third offspring for his mother, Wild Girl. She is experienced at raising babies and is showing all the right maternal behaviors.
Photo Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Wild Girl arrived at the zoo’s Wildlife Hospital after being hit by a car, and her injuries prevented her from being released back into the wild. She joined the zoo’s Koala group in early 2013 and has since played an important role in the breeding program.
For now, zoo visitors will have to look carefully to spot the joey when he is out of the pouch. The little joey clings to Wild Girl’s belly and can be hard to see. As the Australian spring arrives in full, the weather will warm up and the joey should become more active and independent.
Koala joeys stay with their mothers until they are about 12 months of age. At that time, they gradually roam farther from their mothers before becoming fully independent.
A male joey has appeared just in time to catch the warmer weather. The seven-month-old, who keepers have named TJ, is the first joey for mother Sydney.
“We’ve been seeing arms and legs and even a little pair of eyes peeking out from Sydney’s pouch in recent weeks, but he wasn’t ready to venture outside until this week,” said Koala Keeper, Laura Jones.
Sydney isn’t the only first-time mother at Taronga’s Koala Encounter, with neighbor Mallee also welcoming her first joey.
The male joey has been named Baxter, after a stringybark species called Eucalyptus Baxteri, and he’s already developing a taste for leaves.
“Baxter is chomping on leaves like a champion. He’s obviously still suckling from mum, but he’ll become more and more independent over the coming months,” said Laura.
“He loves climbing up near Mallee’s head to look around and I saw him step off on his own for the first time this week. He only lasted a few seconds before returning to mum, but he looked quite pleased with himself.”
Taronga’s Koala breeding program has now produced three joeys this season, with experienced mother, Wanda, welcoming a female joey in June.
Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of its first Koala joey for this year’s breeding season, with a tiny face starting to emerge from its mother’s pouch. The female joey has been spotted mouthing its first eucalyptus leaves and slowly exploring the world outside the pouch, to the delight of keepers and visitors.
“She’s still quite shy, but we’re beginning to see her little face more and more,” said Koala Keeper, Laura Jones.
Photo Credits: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo
Part of Taronga’s Koala breeding program, the yet-to-be-named joey is the third for experienced mother, Wanda. “Wanda is a very relaxed and attentive mum. She keeps her little one nice and close at all times and I’ve never seen her complain when the joey is scratching around with its claws inside her pouch,” said Laura.
At six months old, the joey will continue to gain weight and the fluffy fur for which Koalas are known. She will spend, at least, another four months with her mother before venturing out on her own. “It won’t be long before she can’t fit back inside the pouch. At that point she’ll start to cuddle up with mum, only putting her head back inside the pouch to drink,” said Laura.
Tour groups have begun meeting Wanda and her joey at Taronga’s Koala Encounter, where they learn more about one of Australia’s most iconic species and how they are under threat from urban development and forestry breaking up their natural habitat.
Laura said it was important for people to watch out for Koalas on the roads at this time of year, particularly at dawn and dusk. “The quality of food declines during winter, so potentially you’ll see Koalas ranging further and closer to high-density areas to find leaves,” she said.
The Koala is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, in 2012, the Australian government listed Koala populations in Queensland and New South Wales as “Vulnerable”, due to a 40% population decline in Queensland and a 33% decline in New South Wales. Populations in Victoria and South Australia appear to be abundant; however, the Australian Koala Foundation argues that the exclusion of Victorian populations from protective measures is based on a misconception that the total Koala population is 200,000, whereas they believe it is probably less than 100,000.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in South Carolina, was recently greeted by a new Koala joey. The male juvenile, born in May to ‘Lottie’ and ‘Jimmie’, emerged from mother’s pouch and has become quite the attraction.
Photo Credits: JMB Photography
The birth of the new Koala is a rare occurrence for a zoo in the United States. There is only an average of seven joeys born per year in 11 U.S. zoos with Koala exhibits, and only two were born in 2014.
Native to Australia, the Koala’s closest living relative is the wombat. They are mostly nocturnal, marsupials that often sleep 18-20 hours each day.
They prefer to live in the tall eucalypt forests and low eucalypt woodlands of mainland, eastern Australia and on some islands off the southern and eastern coasts. Although, there are well over 600 varieties of eucalypts, Koalas eat only some of these. They are fussy eaters and have strong preferences for different types of gum leaves.
In the wild, young females generally give birth to one young per year, and older females will generally reproduce every 2-3 years.
After a gestation period of about 30-35 days, the 2cm long blind and furless joey makes his journey to the mother’s pouch. It relies on its well-developed senses of smell and touch and an inborn sense of direction. Once in the pouch, it attaches itself to one of the two teats. The joey stays in its mother’s pouch for about 6 to 7 months, drinking only milk.
Before it can tolerate gumleaves, which are toxic for most mammals, the joey must feed on a substance called ‘pap' which is a specialized form of the mother’s droppings that is soft and runny. This allows the mother to pass on to the joey special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for it to be able to digest the gumleaves. It feeds on this for a period of up to a few weeks, just prior to it coming out of the pouch.
After emerging from the pouch, the joey will ride on its mother’s abdomen or back, and it will return to the pouch for milk until too big to fit inside. The joey leaves its mother’s home range between 1 and 3 years old, depending on when the mother has her next joey.
Two Koala joeys have become ‘tree-mates’ at Taronga Zoo, snacking, sniffing and snoozing side-by-side since moving away from their mothers.
Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo
‘Holly’ and ‘Bai’yali’ recently moved into a “koala crèche”, where the pair has been spotted munching on eucalyptus leaves together and even sharing an occasional nose-rub to the delight of zoo visitors.
“Koalas are known to have poor eyesight, so smelling and hearing is much more important. Nose touching is a Koala greeting and a way for Koalas to determine if they’re encountering a friend or foe,” said Koala Keeper, Laura Jones.
The pairing of one-year-old Holly (whose birthday is Christmas Day) and 15-month-old Bai’yali, is designed to replicate Koala behaviors in the wild. From 12 months onwards, Koala joeys leave their mothers to find their own home ranges.
“We crèche them together so they can grow up and learn natural social behaviors without feeling threatened by the adult Koalas. It’s also nice for the joeys to have a companion while they’re making the big transition away from their mothers,” said Laura.
Laura said the female joeys would remain together for at least another year if they continue to get along.
Keepers at Taronga Zoo, in Australia, are celebrating the arrival of two new Koala joeys!
Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo
A female joey has finally emerged from the pouch of first-time mother, Ruby. Born on Christmas Day, the joey was one month late in emerging, but she is quickly making up for lost time, exploring the world outside her mother’s pouch and tasting her first eucalyptus leaves.
Koala Keeper, Laura Jones, said, “She got off to a slightly slow start, but she’s healthy now and starting to mouth leaves. Ruby is also becoming more comfortable and relaxed as a mother, and her joey can often be seen snuggling in her belly when they are resting.”
The female joey is yet-to-be-named, but Taronga Zoo will soon be launching a naming competition for the new Koala through its social media pages.
Ruby isn’t the only new Koala mother at the zoo. Another member of the zoo’s Koala breeding group, River, also welcomed her first joey.
The male joey has been named ‘Bardin’ after the Aboriginal word for ‘ironbark’, one of the eucalyptus species favored by koalas. At 10 months old, Bardin is steadily gaining weight and growing in confidence.
Taronga’s Koala breeding program has now produced three joeys this season. River’s older sister, Tilly, also welcomed a female joey named Bai’yali, earlier this year.
The reopening of Taronga’s Koala Encounter exhibit, at the zoo, has allowed visitors to become acquainted with the new joeys and their families. Here, they can learn more about one of Australia’s most iconic species and why its major threats are urban development and forestry in their natural habitat.
See more photos of the joeys and their mothers below.
“Rosea (named for a species of flowering eucalypt) is approximately 8 months old and is a little shy at present, preferring to stay close to mum’s chest, but in the coming months will start to move on to her mother’s back,” said keeper, Natacha Richards.
The new Koala joey is the first offspring for her attentive mother, and the pair makes their home in the zoo’s Aussie Walkthrough exhibit. They are joined by a small group of Koalas that is growing by several members this season. Two more Koala joeys are yet to emerge from their mother’s pouches.
Although Koalas are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, their numbers are declining in the wild due to habitat encroachment. Every new birth in an accredited zoo is one way to help secure the future of the species.
Taronga Zoo welcomed its first koala joey for this year’s breeding season, with the little female beginning to explore the world outside her mother’s pouch to the delight of visitors.
Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo
The joey has been named Bai’yali (pronounced ‘bye-yah-lee’) after the D'harawal Aboriginal word for ‘stringybark,’ one of the eucalyptus species favoured by koalas.
Koala keeper Laura Jones said mother Tilly had taken to her new role remarkably well.
“She’s proving to be a very relaxed and nurturing mum. She’s doing all the right things and her joey is thriving. Bai’yali is fully out of the pouch now and can often be seen holding onto mum and snuggling in her belly when they are resting,” said Laura.
At seven months old, the joey is beginning to taste eucalyptus leaves and steadily gaining weight and the fluffy fur for which koalas are known. She will spend at least another three months with her mother before venturing out on her own.
Part of Taronga Zoo’s koala breeding program, Bai’yali is the first of three joeys expected to emerge at the Zoo this breeding season. Tilly’s younger sister and tree-mate, River, is also carrying a male joey.
“He still just fits inside mum’s pouch, but it won’t be long before he’s out and about too,” said Laura.
Koalas are under threat from urban development and forestry breaking up their natural habitat.
The only Koala ever born in the United Kingdom ventured outdoors for the very first time this week.
Yooranah is a male Koala joey born at the Edinburgh Zoo to mother Alinga and father Goonaroo in May 2013. In late 2013 he first emerged from the pouch. On his first outdoor adventure, Yooranah scaled the outdoor climbing frame for the first time on his own. Before this, he needed help from his keepers! He is one of four Koalas at the zoo.
Photo Credit: Edinburgh Zoo When the weather is warm, keepers take the Koalas out of their special heated enclosures to spend time in an outdoor amphitheater at the zoo, complete with climbing frames and eucalyptus leaves. This outdoor time is important – the Koalas get their vitamin D from sunlight, and they can also enjoy the sights and sounds of the zoo.
Three’s a crowd – unless you’re a Koala joey at Australia's Taronga Zoo!
Keepers spotted joeys Sydney, Milli and Tucker snoozing and spooning happily together. The trio have been tree-mates in the Zoo’s Koala Encounter area for the past month, since moving away from their mothers.
Photo Credits: Ellen Wilson (1,2); Paul Fahy (3,4,5,6,7,8)
The two females, Sydney and Milli, are nearly 18 months old, while male Tucker is the youngest at 12 months old.
Koala keeper, Laura Jones said the trio are enjoying their time together and can often be spotted eating or sleeping close together – and occasionally on top of each other.
“Tucker is usually the poor guy on the bottom. I think he goes to sleep first and then the girls find a comfy spot on top of him,” said Laura. “He’s seems to quite like it at the moment though, as it may remind him of cuddling with his mum.”
Part of Taronga Zoo’s Koala breeding program, Sydney, Milli and Tucker all emerged from the pouch during last year’s breeding season. The Zoo has three more joeys getting ready to emerge this season.