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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Zoo's costly koalas get 1-way trip West

Two of Toledo's furriest and fussiest residents are on their way to warmer climates today via a Federal Express flight out of Detroit.

Orana, a 7-year-old koala, and Alkoo, her year-old joey, were scheduled to be shipped this morning from the Toledo Zoo to the San Diego Zoo after munching their way this year through $44,000 worth of eucalyptus leaves - their meal of choice.

The Toledo Zoo, which just passed a five-year, 0.7-mill operating levy, decided the animals were too costly to keep.

They cost more to feed than the elephants, rhinos, and hippos combined, and the koalas sleep most of the day.

It required a pile of paperwork to put the koalas on the move today - cushioned with eucalyptus leaves in a large kennel and specially shipped in the climate-controlled crew compartment of the FedEx plane.

Because of extra security measures after Sept. 11, 2001, the two Toledo Zoo caretakers who will travel with them had to undergo extra background checks, and the koalas' health papers were extraordinarily complex, said Mike Dilley, associate curator of primates and small mammals.

“It almost takes an act of Congress to get them out there,” he quipped.

The zoo has not yet decided what animals they will obtain to replace the koalas, Mr. Dilley said.

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