On loan to the Santa Barbara Zoo for a year, koalas Edmund and Thackory are now on view. Look for them in their new habitat’s trees near the zoo’s train station, where they spend up to 20 hours a day sitting, resting, or sleeping. They pass all this time lounging to conserve energy because it takes a lot of work to digest all the leafy food they eat — 1.5 pounds a day, or between 13 and 25 percent of their body weight.
Edmund was born September 1, 2015, at the Los Angeles Zoo. Staff there describe him as “very people-oriented and personable.” Thackory — the Aboriginal word for “heavy” — is a particularly big koala. Born June 15, 2011, at the San Diego Zoo, his keepers say he has a “very laid-back Southern Californian personality.”
The koala itself is protected throughout Australia, but the animals’ habitat is not. While they’re currently listed as “vulnerable,” a number of conservation groups are pushing to have the marsupials classified as “endangered.” “Koalas are iconic animals for Australia, as it’s the only place they are found in the wild,” says Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s director of animal health and care, who was born in and received her veterinary degree in Australia. “But there are major challenges there that threaten koalas and other native animals and plants in Australia. Having Edmund and Thackory in Santa Barbara for a year allows our guests not only to appreciate these two little guys but also to discover the changes affecting their native habitat.”