The joey is currently the size of a softball and recently opened its eyes

By Georgia Slater
January 06, 2021 02:45 PM
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Credit: Columbus zoo/twitter

An Ohio zoo is ringing in the new year with an adorable new addition.

On Tuesday, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced that it is celebrating the birth of its first baby koala in 15 years.

Katie the koala gave birth to her joey on July 5, 2020, and her "baby bump" is now occasionally moving as the animal develops inside her pouch, the Ohio zoo shared in a press release.

As marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young which then have to make their own way from the birth canal to their mothers' pouch instead of developing inside their mothers' womb.

As the tiny joey continues to grow, it will stay inside Katy's pouch, which she can open and close using a special muscle.

Zoo guests will be able to see a small arm or leg every so often until around mid-March when the joey will outgrow Katy's pouch, the zoo explained.

Credit: Columbus zoo/twitter
Credit: Columbus zoo/twitter

The finely furred joey, who is the first baby born to parents Katy and Thoar, is currently the size of a softball and recently opened its eyes.

Katy and Thoar were both born at the San Diego Zoo in 2015 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo in September 2017. Their young is the third successful joey birth since the zoo began housing koalas in 1991.

"With only 53 koalas residing in nine AZA-accredited facilities in North America, the birth of this koala joey is an extremely significant achievement," Tom Stalf, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO, said in the release.

Koalas are currently listed as "vulnerable" and their populations are continuing to decrease due in part to habitat destruction, drought and, the recent Australia bushfires, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Stalf added that the zoo is "thrilled" to kick off the new year with such "great news."

"We are proud of our continued commitment in working to protect the future of koalas and other species across the globe," he said.