GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Watch koalas Noorundi and Iluka live at the John Ball Zoo via our koala cam below.
Noorundi (age 4) and Iluka (age 2) are spending the summer at the John Ball Zoo as part of the San Diego Zoo Global Education and Conservation Project (SDZG).
John Ball Zoo wants people to learn about the impact koalas have on habitats both near and far. Having these two ambassadors will let guests learn about koalas up close! The JBZ staff worked closely with San Diego Zoo to train on their daily care before the koalas arrived, and a San Diego zookeeper traveled to Grand Rapids with the animals.
Where in the zoo will you find the koalas?
During their stay, the koalas will enjoy a new habitat built specifically for their needs, across the pathway from Frogs and Friends.
How did the Koalas get here?
JBZ community partner Amway donated the time and expense to bring the koalas to Grand Rapids via a private plane. Todd Urbanski, pilot for Amway, has been a zoo volunteer since 1999. JBZ says they are very proud of their community partners that contribute to help with the safety and well-being of their animals.
The zoo is the only place in Michigan to see koalas up close and is one of just 10 zoos in North America.
What does the SDZG Koala Education and Conservation Project do?
- Provides direct financial contributions, including from JBZ, to “integrated, realistic conservation action for the koala and other species inhabiting the same ecosystem in Australia.”
- Develops and maintains a self-sustaining population of koalas outside of Australia.
- Collects behavioral and biological data that will contribute to the well-being of koalas and other marsupials both in zoos as well as those in their natural habitat.
Koalas are only awake a few hours a day. They sleep up to 20 hours a day, partly to conserve the energy needed to digest the highly toxic eucalyptus leaves they love to eat.
According to the John Ball Zoo, koalas are extremely picky eaters. Out of the more than 700 different species of eucalyptus plants, koalas eat less than 50 of those species. The zoo says koalas can even be as selective as only eating certain leaves on a single branch.
Koalas have long claws and two opposable digits to help them grip branches and strong cartilage at the base of their spines to support their weight while sleeping on small, hard branches.
Koalas were recently recognized as endangered by the Australian Government listing for Queensland, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory. Koala numbers are currently at an all-time low.
According to John Ball Zoo, male koalas are kept in separate spaces from one another due to competition.
Zookeepers weigh the koala fecal pellets daily to catch subtle health changes.
The koalas will be at the John Ball Zoo through September 1. Make sure you stop by and see them before they are gone!