Great, a 5-year-old male koala, has been sent to Riverbanks Zoo with one goal in mind — make new koalas. But zoo officials say any expansion of their koala family won't happen overnight. Great takes a while to get used to his new home and he has never been allowed to breed.
The new koala flew from San Diego to Raleigh, N.C., on Monday. His crate took two seats, while zookeeper Jennifer Moll, who will stay with the animal for a few days, sat beside him.
After a quick ride to Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo officials began adjusting Great to his surroundings. He will have his choice of Columbia or San Diego eucalyptus leaves for several weeks, zookeepers said.
Zoo officials have placed Great in an enclosure away from the public. Unless he overcomes his aversion to being moved, he may never be seen by zoo visitors. Great once lost several pounds after a move before regaining his appetite, a huge loss for a 16-pound animal, said Ed Diebold, director of animal collections at Riverbanks Zoo.
But this is Great's fourth zoo, and he has adjusted easier each time, Diebold said.
Zookeepers have no problem with keeping Great hidden, especially if he does what they want him to do — breed to expand the koala gene pool.
Great will initially be kept from contact with zoo's two female koalas, but will be close enough to begin to recognize them.
When the females grow increasingly restless and loud, an indication they are entering the peak of fertility, they will be put in the same enclosure as Great with hopes nature will take its course.