Taking Koala Education on the Road
In 1983, the San Diego Zoo began a conservation education program that shared koalas with other zoos. Zoo director Chuck Bieler had been instrumental in bringing a breeding group of koalas to San Diego in 1976, and success had resulted in the San Diego Zoo caring for the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia. Koalas were becoming increasingly threatened in the wild, and Zoo keepers, curators, and scientists felt it was important for more people to encounter and learn about these marsupials. In this new program, San Diego Zoo koala keepers would work with staff at the host zoo to share koala behavior knowledge and husbandry techniques. Then, one of San Diego’s koalas would travel, accompanied by a San Diego keeper, to stay at the host zoo for several months to several years. The first koala in the program went to stay at the Denver Zoo and caused quite a sensation there. Since then, the San Diego Zoo has brought koalas to over 65 zoos in 12 countries, spreading the news about what amazing animals they are and the conservation challenges they face.