What has short grayish fur, an adorable nose and the cutest ears you have ever seen? The answer is the latest addition to Palm Beach Zoo’s animal family. Sydney, aptly named after the largest city in Australia, is a two-year-old Queensland koala who has made his way to his new home in West Palm Beach. Sydney is a special new addition, as he is the nephew of both former zoo koala residents, Oz and Katherine.
Sydney was born at Zoo Tampa in 2018 to parents Heathcliff (Oz’s brother) and Ceduna (Katherine’s sister). Like all koalas, he spent more than a year with his mother learning all the necessary koala skills, and then it was time to go out on his own. At the same time, the Palm Beach Zoo had experienced the loss of the beloved Oz and Katherine and was ready to welcome a new koala.
Koalas are important to the Palm Beach Zoo, as they help connect visitors with their wild cousins.
“Connecting people to wildlife locally and around the world is the main mission of zoos. We get to inspire people to care for and about the wild, so it will thrive for future generations,” Palm Beach Zoo President & CEO Margo McKnight said. “Having an incredibly cute koala to help share that message only helps our cause.”
Koala Forest, in the Islands section of the Palm Beach Zoo, is Sydney’s new home. It features three indoor bedroom spaces with environmental controls to mimic the conditions in the wild and two outdoor yards. One yard is shared with fellow Australian wildlife, a kookaburra pair, and the other features an expansive yard with plenty of room to roam.
“We are so thankful to our fellow zoologists at Zoo Tampa for the love, attention and care they gave to Sydney. He is a joy, and he came to us with a great foundation of behaviors to aid in his own care,” zoologist Tabbitha Beckens said. “The guests are fully enjoying watching him as he moves about the bedrooms freely and eating heartily like a teenage boy.”
The zoo is looking to welcome a potential mate for Sydney as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. The SSP ensures a genetically healthy population of animals for the future.
The plight of koalas in the wild was impacted greatly by the 2019 Black Summer bushfire in Australia. It caused immense damage to the natural ecosystem and the koala population. These fires made their endangered status even more tenuous. Still today, many wildlife conservation champions, including Zoos Victoria, are working to rehabilitate and return injured koalas to their natural habitats. It is estimated that more than three billion native animals were injured or killed in the bushfires.
Sydney can be seen every day in Koala Forest, during operating hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A visit to the zoo helps save wildlife in wild places by supporting the animals in its care and the work of the zoologists in the field. Visit www.palmbeachzoo.org to learn more.