Riverbanks Zoo

Koala Joey Ready for His Close-Up


Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in South Carolina, was recently greeted by a new Koala joey. The male juvenile, born in May to ‘Lottie’ and ‘Jimmie’, emerged from mother’s pouch and has become quite the attraction. 



10866262_10152672701700292_760693107489027150_oPhoto Credits: JMB Photography

The birth of the new Koala is a rare occurrence for a zoo in the United States. There is only an average of seven joeys born per year in 11 U.S. zoos with Koala exhibits, and only two were born in 2014.

Native to Australia, the Koala’s closest living relative is the wombat. They are mostly nocturnal, marsupials that often sleep 18-20 hours each day.

They prefer to live in the tall eucalypt forests and low eucalypt woodlands of mainland, eastern Australia and on some islands off the southern and eastern coasts. Although, there are well over 600 varieties of eucalypts, Koalas eat only some of these. They are fussy eaters and have strong preferences for different types of gum leaves.

In the wild, young females generally give birth to one young per year, and older females will generally reproduce every 2-3 years.

After a gestation period of about 30-35 days, the 2cm long blind and furless joey makes his journey to the mother’s pouch. It relies on its well-developed senses of smell and touch and an inborn sense of direction. Once in the pouch, it attaches itself to one of the two teats. The joey stays in its mother’s pouch for about 6 to 7 months, drinking only milk.

Before it can tolerate gumleaves, which are toxic for most mammals, the joey must feed on a substance called ‘pap' which is a specialized form of the mother’s droppings that is soft and runny. This allows the mother to pass on to the joey special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for it to be able to digest the gumleaves. It feeds on this for a period of up to a few weeks, just prior to it coming out of the pouch.

After emerging from the pouch, the joey will ride on its mother’s abdomen or back, and it will return to the pouch for milk until too big to fit inside. The joey leaves its mother’s home range between 1 and 3 years old, depending on when the mother has her next joey.

Too Big for the Pouch, but Perfect as a Backpack

Owen the Koala clings to mom at the Riverbanks Zoo 2

Too big for mom's pouch, Baby Koala Owen has finally emerged for visitiors at the Koala Knockabout exhibit at the Riverbanks Zoo. Born to mom Lottie back in May, Owen started out as a jellybean-sized joey nestled deep within mom's pouch, but has since grown to a perfect Koala-sized backpack. For the most part, Australian animals in non-Australian zoos are rare and the Riverbanks Zoo was lucky to receive Lottie from South Carolina's sister Australian state of Queensland in 2003. In the early 20th Century, Koalas were almost hunted to extinction for their fur, which was exported to Europe and North America. Today, anyone who even thinks of buying a Koala fur jacket should probably be slapped, or at the very least, de-friended on Facebook.

Owen the Koala clings to mom at the Riverbanks Zoo 2

Owen the Koala clings to mom at the Riverbanks Zoo 2

Owen the Koala clings to mom Lottie at the Riverbanks ZooPhoto credits: Richard Rokes / Riverbanks Zoo

Oliver the Koala Comes out to Play

Little Oliver the Koala was born back in April at the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina but, like other marsupials, spent his first months in mom's pouch. The little joey is only now too large for mom "Lottie's" pouch but still spends his days close by, usually clinging to her back or tucked under her stomach. 

Baby koala riverbanks zoo lottie and oliver 1 rs 

Baby koala riverbanks zoo lottie and oliver 2 rs

Baby koala riverbanks zoo lottie and oliver 3 rs

Baby koala riverbanks zoo lottie and oliver 6 rs2  

Baby koala riverbanks zoo lottie and oliver 5 rs 

Photo credits: Riverbanks Zoo

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Riverbanks Zoo’s Giraffe Herd Grows by Six Feet

This leggy little girl was born overnight and was standing and alert when the keepers entered the giraffe barn on the morning of August 15. At birth, the calf was approximately 5' 6" tall and 119 lbs. Now, at 1 month, she is nearly 6' tall and 177 lbs. See her now at South Carolina's Riverbanks Zoo.


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Black-Necked Swan Cygnets under Mom's Wing

Displaying none of their parents' signature black neck, these downy white black-necked swan cygnets ventured out onto the pond at the Riverbanks Zoo's Bird Garden after only one day in the nest. Born March 6th, the cygnets will be on display until the fall.

Black Necked Swan Cygnets - Riverbanks Zoo 3 in a row

Black Necked Swan Cygnets - Riverbanks Zoo 3 side by side

While wholly capable of swimming, sometimes it's easier to catch a ride with mom.

Black Necked Swan Cygnets - Riverbanks Zoo under moms wing 2

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