Friday, May 24, 2013

Opening Today: San Diego Zoo Australian Outback

If you've been paying attention lately, you know that I spend a lot of time at the San Diego Zoo. For the price of annual membership ($114 for dual membership), I have been taking full advantage with nearly weekly visits to the park. Whether you want to see the animals, get a quick jaunt on the Skyfari, have a picnic in the Fern Canyon, or watch a kid (like Zane) master the art of walking on all of the varying terrains at the park, it has to be one of the best deals in town if you make it worth your while to visit frequently.

Today, Friday, May 24, the San Diego Zoo opens the brand new Conrad Prebys Australian Outback. For months, the upper mesa (formerly the elephant mesa) has been blocked with green meshed fences, but today is the grand opening, and I happened to be hovering around yesterday just to take some photos of the parts that I could see. Once upon a time I was invited to opening parties for events like this, but I suppose everyone is a blogger these days so parties are reserved for those who donate the big bucks. No matter, I'm sure over the weekend the Zoo will be nuts to butts, but I'll be there again soon enough to enjoy the park on a weekday with minimal crowds. See the full press release and more photos after the jump.

San Diego Zoo Staff Puts Finishing Touches on the Conrad Prebys
Australian Outback Exhibit

Staff in every department at the San Diego Zoo are working swiftly to get everything into place for the unveiling of the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback exhibit. Opening Friday, May 24, the 3-acre exhibit is home to Queensland koalas, wombats, Parma wallabies and 23 species of Australian birds including the kookaburra, bowerbird, palm cockatoos and Gouldian finches.

All the animals have been moved into the area and are getting acclimated to their new habitats. Artwork and signs about the exhibits have been installed and the last of the vegetation is being planted.

Australian Outback provides outdoor perches for each of the Zoo's 21 koalas - including three joeys, which range in age from 8 to 10 months old. Most of the koalas have found their preferred areas of their perch, which is usually next to the fresh eucalyptus that keepers put out for them two times a day. One of the common wombats has broken in her exhibit and has dug tunnels and a sleeping den.

The San Diego Zoo has the largest breeding colony of Queensland koalas and the most successful koala breeding program outside of Australia. Staff at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are studying koala populations both at the Zoo and in the wild to better understand the species' complex ecology, mating behaviors and health. The information gleaned from this work will help further develop conservation strategies for koalas. San Diego Zoo Global is also partnering with the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation in Australia to educate people about the threats facing native koala populations.

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