Asked and Answered: A return email to the Milwaukee County Zoo, Part II
[Also] in 1984 a koala was exhibited for the very first time in Milwaukee. The Australia building was refurbished especially for the Aussies’ visit and fresh eucalyptus was flown in daily. They even had a raised platform built to accommodate a second tier of gawkers. The crowds and lines of people waiting to see the little fur-ball were astonishing.
The little fur-ball got thousands of visitors and all I got was a lousy t-shirt.
(which I still have somewhere!)
I call it a fur-ball ’cause that’s what it was – that’s all that it was. The zookeepers had a dead tree bolted into the exhibit and, as you may or may not know, koalas are sloth-like, slow and mainly nocturnal and sleep most of the day. Thousands of people trooped past and all they ever saw was this little koala perched in the crotch of the tree sleeping throughout the day, just a fur-ball huddled with his back turned to the passing throng.
You couldn’t even see part of his face.
While the koala was on loan I decided to treat some of my young nephews to a trip to the zoo. When we got home I complained about how disappointed I was with the koalas’ inactivity and I said:
“It just sat there! It didn’t do anything!”
But one of the boys retorted:
“Yes it did. I saw it poop.”
Shortly thereafter, back at work at the zoo, I was talking to some of the zookeepers in the backroom of the exhibit; I related the story of how exciting it was for everyone to pay an admission fee and wait in long lines just to see the fur-ball sleep all day with his face to the wall, and my nephews’ eyewitness account of the only “movement” anyone had ever actually seen.
The koala had a human chaperone, a young and attractive female zookeeper from Australia. In her crisp Aussie accent she explained to us that the koalas’ metabolism is very, very slow and they excrete about once every ten days – so what my nephew had witnessed was, indeed, something of an event!