- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - You can’t find many animals much cuter than koalas.

But these Australian marsupials are a challenge for zoos to keep as they require a steady supply of a particular food source - eucalyptus leaves.

So, zoos like the Indianapolis Zoo often opt not to keep these animals on permanent exhibit. Instead, the Indianapolis Zoo has twice hosted koalas for temporary stays.

In the summer of 2015, the koalas - and, no, they are not bears - will be back.

Two male koalas on loan from the San Diego Zoo will move into the exhibit space most recently inhabited by bats for an extended stay from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. They will be the lone Australian mammals at the zoo.



“We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for people to see some cool Australian mammals, to learn about a different part of the world that is not represented here,” Rob Shumaker, vice president of conservation and life sciences, told The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1w5O24h ).

During the koalas’ stay, the zoo will have to fly in their primary food source, eucalyptus from suppliers in either California or Florida. And they’re not just picky about the type of greens they eat - they also may turn their little black noses up at certain leaves not to their liking, Shumaker said.

Because koalas need to spend a lot of time digesting in order to extract the nutrients out of their food, they can sleep as much as 20 hours a day, both in captivity and in the wild.

“Every single hour of the day we’re open is equally good to see them,” Shumaker said. “They probably will be doing the same thing the entire day.”

At least one of the male koalas will be the offspring of a male koala who did an Indianapolis stint in 2008, the last time the zoo had the animals on exhibit.

Zoo staffers will retrofit the bats’ exhibit - which had been the temporary home for the last koala visit - and add an outdoor space. A zoo vet and keeper will travel to San Diego in advance of the animal’s arrival here to learn more about their care.

Unlike some other zoo displays, however, which can exude distinctive odors, this one may prove downright aromatic. Because koalas eat only eucalyptus, their urine and feces smell like nothing so much as cough drops, Shumaker said.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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