Omeo the little koala holding onto a stuffed animal koala.

Amazing Omeo

Omeo peeking out from a wildlife care specialist's arm.

Say G'day

Meet Omeo (say “Ooh-me-ooh”), a koala joey at the San Diego Zoo. His name is an Aboriginal Australian word that means “hills.” We named him that because he has had some ups and downs in his young life. And our wildlife care specialists have been helping him through it all.

Omeo at only 5 1/2 months old, peeking out of a fuzzy green zippered pouch.

Helping Hands

At birth, a koala is about the size and weight of a jelly bean and has no fur. It crawls into its mother’s pouch to stay warm and grow for about six to eight months. But when Omeo was only about 5 months old, his mother died from cancer. Omeo was too young to survive without a pouch, so Zoo wildlife care specialists began feeding and caring for the little marsupial.

Omeo being bottle-fed formula.

Just Like Mom

We gave Omeo a cloth pouch to snuggle in. When he wasn’t being fed or checked, he (and his pouch) stayed in an incubator kept at the temperature of a mother koala’s body. He was fed a special formula six times a day around the clock.

Omeo with his fur growing in.

First Fur

Before a joey comes completely out of its mother’s pouch, it peeks just its head and shoulders out for a month or more. So it makes sense that the first place Omeo’s fur grew in was his head and shoulders, to keep them warm out of the pouch. His waist, rump, and leg fur didn’t grow in until he was ready to be completely out of the pouch at about 8 months old.

Omeo being introduced to eucalyptus.

Growing Up and Up

Omeo’s wildlife care specialists handled him and gently encouraged him to crawl and move. This was the first step in developing strong muscles for climbing, which all koalas must do. They gave him a stuffed koala so he could climb on its back, just as he would do with his mother. Later they used eucalyptus tree branches to make a mini tree for him to practice climbing. Today Omeo’s at home in the koala colony at the Zoo and has become a fantastic climber. His story inspired a special book called Amazing Omeo: A Baby Koala’s True Story of Survival. It’s part of our Hope & Inspiration series.