This week we were very fortunate to talk everything Koala from the team that cares for them at the San Diego Zoo. We were joined by team members Candis Malcolm, Lindsey King and Jennifer Roesler. The team discusses how they care about these animals and how the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is helping to study and support Koalas in the wild.
San Diego Zoo Koala History
The following was taken from the San Diego Zoo Website HERE
The San Diego Zoo received its first two koalas in 1925, as a gift from the children of Sydney, Australia, to the children of San Diego. They were named after characters in a famous Australian children’s story by May Gibbs—Snugglepot and Cuddlepie—and were soon major celebrities. Over the next 34 years, the Zoo received koalas in 1928, 1951, and 1959, but it was not until 1960 that the first koala was born here. It was such a momentous occasion that the Zoo received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Edward Bean Award for the Most Notable Birth for the first birth of a koala in the US.
Our Zoo population took off from there, with 12 koalas born between 1960 and 1968, when breeding stopped. Australia had always been highly selective in regard to the export of any native wildlife, and a total ban on the export of koalas was enacted in the 1960s.
When our last male, Teddy, died in 1976, Australian airline Qantas offered to help us obtain more koalas. Teddy had appeared in some of that airline’s commercials. It also helped that 1976 was a bicentennial year for the US, and the Australian government waived the export ban for this one occasion. Later that year we received two male and four female koalas: Waltzing, Cough Drop, Matilda, Audrey, Pepsi, and Coke. At the time, we did not know how successful the San Diego Zoo would be in breeding this group of koalas. Today, the San Diego Zoo has the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia, with 20 living at the Zoo and more than 30 on loan to other zoos in the US and Europe.
San Diego Zoo Koala Team
Candis has always had a love for animals- before she could even walk she preferred the company of dogs to people. She spent the bulk of her childhood living on a lake on Long Island, and grew up seeing and respecting the native wildlife. She had many favorite animals throughout the years, so it’s hard to pinpoint when her interest in Australian wildlife (marsupials in particular) began, but it was a show about marsupials that lead her to the zookeeper profession! She received a Zoology degree from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, FL, then continued with their Teaching Zoo Program to receive a degree in Zoo Animal Technology. While in school she was introduced to the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, which solidified her love for working with marsupials. She gained experience working with a variety of animals that she loves, but marsupials were definitely at the forefront. While working at Dallas Zoo, she got the opportunity to work with two male koalas that were on loan from San Diego. It was this experience that gave her the qualifications to apply, and get hired, for her dream job as a koala keeper at the San Diego Zoo!
Lindsey King grew up in Upstate NY, with a love for animals that blossomed through starting horseback riding lessons at age 7. Her interest in caring for exotic animals developed after attending Zoo Camp at Busch Gardens in FL over the summers during high school. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Animal Science in 2004. Lindsey worked at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA before starting her dream job at the San Diego Zoo in 2006. She worked with a wide variety of zoo animals, including giant pandas and polar bears before traveling to Australia in 2011 and falling in love with marsupials. Lindsey is a Senior Keeper and can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include working with koalas.
Jennifer has worked at San Diego for quite some time and is a senior mammal keeper working with koalas. She has been working at the San Diego Zoo for over 13 years.
Scott unfortunately was not available for the interview but is an important member of the San Diego Zoo Koala team.
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