Zoo euthanizes elderly koala

Posted at: 01/09/2013 10:22 AM
By: KOB.com staff

Photo courtesy ABQ BioPark
Photo courtesy ABQ BioPark

The Albuquerque BioPark has lost another member of its animal family.

The zoo announced Wednesday that it humanely euthanized an 18-year-old male koala named Zaki due to age-related issues.

Zaki was one of the oldest koalas in captivity and the only Victorian koala in North America. In a news release, the zoo said keepers had been carefully monitoring the elderly koala.

In recent weeks, Zaki lost a significant amount of weight and became very weak. Veterinarians took X-rays and did a close health evaluation last week, but they were not able to find a conclusive cause for his decline.

With worries about him falling from his perch and concern for his compromised quality of life, the animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

"I feel very lucky to have gotten to work with Zaki," said senior zookeeper Stephanie Kain. "Every koala I've worked with has a different personality, and Zaki was very easy-going and dignified. In his prime, he was a big, strong koala, but never aggressive. During this last year, he interacted with us more and really enjoyed getting his ears scratched."

Keepers know that Zaki was born sometime in January of 1995 but cannot name the exact day because koalas are marsupials. When a bean-sized joey is born, it immediately crawls into the mother's pouch to drink milk and grow for about six months before starting to emerge. This makes an exact determination of day of birth difficult.

Zaki came to the ABQ BioPark in 1997 as an independent young koala and has delighted millions of visitors from his perch in Koala Creek in Australia. Koalas can live up to 20 years in captivity.

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are a threatened species native to eastern Australia. Southern Victorian koalas, like Zaki, tend to be larger and have longer, thicker fur.

Zaki is survived by Luke, a male Queensland koala that recently arrived at the Zoo.