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Illinois zoo welcomes two new koalas

BROOKFIELD, Ill. (CBS, KYMA/KECY) - Brookfield Zoo in Illinois has added two new koalas for a new habitat exhibit.

The zoo has issued the following statement:

"The wait is over! Brumby and Willum, two male koalas, arrived at Brookfield Zoo Chicago on June 10 and have been acclimating to their new home at the Zoo's Hamill Family Play Zoo. Now, the marsupials are ready to meet the public. Free with Zoo admission, the habitat features both indoor and outdoor spaces, allowing guests to observe these charismatic marsupials, during regular Zoo hours.

Willum, who was born in March 2022 at San Diego Zoo, can be distinguished by his darker nose than Brumby’s, and he is the larger of the two. His name is Aboriginal meaning 'hut.' Brumby, who will be 2 years old in August, was also born at San Diego Zoo. He has a large pink spot on his nose. His name is also Aboriginal meaning 'wild horse.' He got that name because when he was a joey, his mother would run around on the ground with him on her back. Since no Aboriginal translation for 'jockey' was found 'wild horse' was a close second.

As the first koalas to call the Zoo home in its 90-year history, their arrival is an important part of Brookfield Zoo Chicago's continued commitment to species conservation and environmental education. The koalas, who arrived at Brookfield Zoo Chicago accompanied by an animal care specialist from both zoos, are here through a loan partnership with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and San Diego Zoo's Koala Education and Conservation Project. Brookfield Zoo Chicago is one of only 11 accredited zoological facilities in North America, and the only in the Midwest, where the public has the opportunity to see and experience these unique and engaging animals.

'We are thrilled to have Willum and Brumby at Brookfield Zoo Chicago,' said Mark Wanner, associate vice president of animal care and conservation. 'Many visiting will never have the opportunity to see koalas in their native land. We hope seeing them here at the Zoo, guests will develop a respect and appreciation for them and wildlife around the world.'

Koalas, who prefer a solitary lifestyle, live in eucalypt forests, which are their home, shelter, and food source. These marsupials are one of only a few animals that eat eucalyptus leaves, which are highly poisonous to most other animals. They have two different types of teeth to help them eat the leaves—incisors at the front of their mouths, strip leaves off branches and their molars help cut and grind the leaves to make them more digestible.

Twice a week, the Zoo will receive a rotation of several different species of fresh eucalyptus leaves for Brumby and Willum. Because of the leaves’ high level of toxicity, koalas have specialized gut bacteria that breaks down the poisonous leaves, extracting all water and nutrients. This is why koalas spend most of their time—up to 18-22 hours a day—sleeping in trees conserving their energy.

Although many refer to koalas as bears, there is no relation. According to several sources, the misnomer occurred when English-speaking settlers observed koalas in Australia and thought the animal resembled a small bear. Koalas are more closely related to other marsupials (pouched mammals) like wombats and kangaroos, which can be seen at the Zoo's Australia House.

Koalas are listed as a 'vulnerable' species by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) in its native land of Australia. Found in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, the species faces several threats, including deforestation, fragmentation of its habitat for development, bushfires, disease, and drought."

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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