Interview with a Koala Keeper at the Singapore Zoo

Koala dalia

“Mommy, mommy, why do the koalas look so sleepy all the time?”

Planning a visit to the Singapore Zoo during the June school holidays?  Be sure to visit the four female koalas at the Australian zone. Here for six months, the cuddly quartet, Chan, Idalia, Paddle and Pelita, hail all the way from Brisbane, Australia. They are a gift from Australia to mark Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Australia.

To welcome these precious envoys, Koalamania! takes places at the Singapore Zoo from 30 May to 28 June 2015 with koala-themed activities for the entire family to enjoy.

Little Day Out found out more about the fair dinkum habits and personalities of these furry friends from Down Under from Rachel Yeo, 26, Junior Animal Management Officer at the Singapore Zoo.

Little Day Out: At first glance, the koalas look similar. How do you tell the four of them apart?

Rachel Yeo: The four koalas have distinct personalities. Chan (short for Chantelle) is the most active and vocal koala. She has the pinkest nose among the four koalas, and the darkest fur. Pellita is the ‘princess’ of the group and she loves attention. She demands to be fed first at meal times. Paddle is the most gentle among the four, and seems to dote on Idalia. Idalia is the youngest and smallest koala in Singapore Zoo. She is more adventurous with food and is willing to try new species of eucalypt leaves.

Koala daliaKoala Idalia, the smallest koala at the Singapore Zoo

LDO: Are the koalas used to our weather here in Singapore?

RY: The koalas in Singapore Zoo live in a special, climate-controlled exhibit within the Australian zone to help them feel comfortable.

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LDO: What do the koalas eat?

RY: Koalas feed mainly on eucalypt leaves. They are fussy eaters and enjoy only 40 to 50 variants out of around 600 types of eucalypt. In Singapore Zoo, the four koalas are fed with between 4 to 5 species of eucalypt leaves, which are specially flown twice weekly from Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

Koala ChanKoala Chan (short for Chantelle), the most active and vocal koala at the Singapore Zoo

LDO: Why do the koalas look sleepy all the time?

RY: Because of their diet, koalas are often seen snoozing to conserve energy. Eucalypt is poisonous to most other animals but koalas’ digestive systems have adapted to break down the toxins to help digest the low-nutrient leaves. Koalas sleep and rest between 18 to 22 hours a day.

LDO: What is one fact about koalas that most people don’t know about?

RY: Koalas have two thumbs on each paw. This is a special adaptation to help their tree-climbing, eucalypt-eating ways.

Koala ThumbsClose-up of Koala Paddle’s Thumbs

To test your koala-spotting skills and say hello to them in person, head down to the Australian zone at the Singapore Zoo where the koalas are on display from 20 May 2015 onwards.

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