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Published: Sunday, 10/7/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledo Zoo reaches Down Under for exhibit to make debut in June

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A red-necked wallaby (macropus rufogriseus) is the type of species the Toledo Zoo hopes to get for an exhibit. A red-necked wallaby (macropus rufogriseus) is the type of species the Toledo Zoo hopes to get for an exhibit.
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The Toledo Zoo is laying plans for an Australia-themed exhibit that is to open in June and is to include wallabies.

The focus on the continent will be zoo-wide. Initially it will include a large walk-through exhibit between the aviary and the Tembo Trail that will feature 20 wallabies, according to Jeff Sailer, zoo executive director.

Details are still being finalized, but it's likely the marsupials will come from a private individual in Huntington, Ind., whom the zoo has worked with before, Mr. Sailer said.

“We need to keep the zoo fresh and interesting,” Mr. Sailer said. “We want people to see new things when they come. Since the aquarium is going to be shut down for two years, we thought it would be nice to offer guests something new.”

The wallaby is a small to medium-sized marsupial that is closely related to Australia’s largest marsupial, the kangaroo. About 30 species of wallaby are found in a variety of habitats throughout the Australian continent, he said.

The species the zoo hopes to obtain is called Bennett’s wallaby, which is one of the larger wallabies and one of the most common ones in the United States, Mr. Sailer said.

It is sometimes called the red-necked wallaby. It can be distinguished from other wallabies by its white cheek markings and red coloring on the neck, according to the Australia Zoo, which houses several. The rest of its body fur is gray to reddish, with a white or pale gray abdomen. The muzzle, paws, and toes are black.

The temporary exhibit, which will be at the zoo only during the summer, will allow individuals to walk among the wallabies, which are not aggressive toward people, Mr. Sailer said.

“It will be a neat opportunity for people to get inside the exhibit,” he said. “They'll be able to get up close without a lot of barriers.”

The exhibit will not carry a separate admission charge, but the zoo will regulate the flow of people throughout it to prevent overwhelming the wallabies, he said.

“It will be staffed,” Mr. Sailer said. “We want to make sure no one is misbehaving, either the wallabies or people.”

The zoo featured wallabies in an education program many years ago, before Nature’s Neighborhood, he said.

Zoo officials hope to bring in other Australian animals, including dingoes, which are related to dogs, and cassowaries, which are very large flightless birds, Mr. Sailer said.

One Australian native that won't be making an appearance is the koala. They are very expensive to feed — $20,000 to $40,000 per koala annually for fresh eucalyptus — and would require a permanent exhibit, Mr. Sailer said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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