Why do we send animals like the Koalas to other zoos?

Modern zoos don’t work in isolation - there’s a network of over 600 zoos worldwide that act like a giant Noah’s Ark for many species. To make sure the animals in world zoos are genetically healthy, it sometimes involves moving animals like Hunter between them.

But it’s not just pot luck as to which animal moves to another zoo within Australia or goes on an international journey. An international database with the histories of more than 2 million animals helps determine this. Before Taronga considers moving an animal, all the potential breeding matches are analysed to predict the genetic diversity of future offspring.  In some respects it’s like a giant computer match-making system for animals being cared for by zoos around the globe.

When Taronga sends an animal to another zoo, we try and pick the most direct travelling route to minimise the amount of time the animal is in transit and where possible a keeper accompanies the animal on the journey to care for them and help make the transition easier. We also try and choose transport times when the weather conditions are favourable or similar at both zoos so the animal doesn’t get a shock going from a Sydney summer to a frosty winter, for instance.

Hunter the Koala had been an exceptionally good breeding male here at Taronga Zoo. He had sired a number of offspring, so his genes were very well represented in Australia. When LA Zoo started looking for a new breeding male koala, Hunter’s track record put him in good stead. Hunter was also unrelated to any of the females looking for a mate, and even though they gave him a hard time when he arrived in LA, his new keepers have high hopes for him when breeding season comes round again. He’s now settled in and female koala Georgie, in particular, has taken a liking to him.