Oldest koala in North America celebrates - sleepily - her 18th birthday

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 02, 2016 5:03 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Midgee, like most teenagers, sleeps well into the afternoon and is a frustratingly picky eater. But at 18, she is unique as the North America's oldest living koala.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo celebrated Midgee's birthday this week by throwing a big party, with about 150 people signing an over-sized card wishing the cute but constantly napping teenager a happy birthday.

Koalas usually live about 10 years, compared to an average of 71 years for a human.

Koalas, a marsupial from Australia, on average sleep about 18 to 20 hours a day due to the high levels of toxins in their diet, which is made up exclusively of eucalyptus leaves, according to the Australian Koala Foundation.

The eucalyptus is shipped to Cleveland twice a week from sources in Arizona and Florida, said Cleveland's animal and veterinary director, Andi Kornak.

In her life at the Cleveland zoo, Midgee has successfully birthed multiple offspring, called joeys, which are now residing at zoos around the country, including Columbus, San Francisco and San Diego.

Midgee is quite the elder compared to her fellow koalas in Cleveland zoo - the boys, or bucks, Bulkee and Nyoonbi are both four years old and the doe, Kirra, is three.

A couple of other captive koalas have lived longed longer than Midgee - one captive female koala lived to be 23 at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, while a male koala died at 22 at the Tama Zoo in Japan, according to the Australian Koala Foundation.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Sandra Maler)