WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach Zoo announces the arrival of a female koala, Katherine, from the Los Angeles Zoo.
"Katherine is coming to us on a Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation," said Nancy Nill, the Zoo's associate curator. "We are excited to welcome her to our family."
Katherine traveled from coast to coast in true Hollywood style, on a commercial flight.
"She was a little nervous during the first portion of the flight, by the second leg, she was a pro," explained Kevin Gorowski, the animal keeper who traveled with Katherine from Los Angeles. Both Zoos also worked together on a joint social media campaign.
(l to r: Katherine and Oz)
"We wanted to do something special for people lucky enough to have Katherine on their flight," said Naki Carter, the Zoo's spokeswoman. "We put together special swag bags for the passengers and crew."
Koalas are notoriously picky eaters who consume an exclusive diet of eucalyptus. With the addition of Katherine, Palm Beach Zoo says it will require around 175 pounds of eucalyptus a week, at the cost of around $60,000 a year to feed the pair.
"We sent two samples of browse to Los Angeles for Katherine, to make sure she had ample opportunity to try our fare," said Nill. "They are definitely one of the more expensive species in our collection."
All incoming Zoo animals enter into a mandatory 30-day quarantine. Katherine's quarantine will take place in an area that's adjacent to the Zoo's Koala Forest habitat. The location comes with a special perk for Zoo members and guests. "Guests will be able to see her during this time; this is a first in the history of our Zoo," explained Nill.
Zoo staff likens the quarantine period to a child changing schools, an adjustment period that can be stressful. "We take the quarantine period very seriously; there are signs informing guests that they will see Zoo staff entering the area with Katherine in masks and protective clothing."
After the quarantine period, Oz and Katherine will have some informal introductions, where they can see each other, before being placed together for potential courtship. Oz, the Zoo's male koala, arrived in May of 2010, from the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina. He is a favorite among visitors. Zoo officials are hopeful the two will produce new generations of koalas.
"Oz is laid back, charismatic and adored," Nill said. "We can't wait to see the relationship between these two develop."