One of Taipei Zoo’s oldest koalas, Patrick, passed away yesterday October 10 after weakening due to old age.
The 19 year old koala was born a Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, on Australia’s Gold Coast, and arrived at the zoo in 1999. At the time, Taiwan became only the fourth country outside of Australia to be home to the cute arboreal marsupials.
For the last 2 years Patrick suffered from worn teeth and cataracts. Barely able to see, and unable to chew thoroughly enough to meet his nutritional needs, zoo staff provided a special care program to monitor his health and supplement his diet.
In the last few days Patrick became too weak to climb, and stopped eating leaves.
Patrick arrived in Taipei with another male named Harley July 31 1999. They were the first koalas in Taiwan, and caused a sensation. EVA Airlines deployed a special cargo-passenger Boeing 747-400 aircraft fitted with a deck cabin where temperature and humidity could be controlled, and veterinarians and caregivers could remain close to the animals. Two females followed a year later.
The airline delivered fresh eucalyptus leaves from Australia every 3-5 days, until Taipei Zoo could supply enough from eucalyptus trees grown locally on land the zoo purchased near Tamsui(Danshui), specifically for the purpose. Six thousand of the native Australian trees were planted.
When the koala house opened to the public, cues of up to 4 kilometers formed at Taipei Zoo. The zoo opened 15 minutes earlier than the official opening time, and each person had viewing time limited to 20 seconds.
Some people cued for more than 3 hours in 38 degree heat to catch a glimpse of the animals.
Taiwan was hit with a koala mania. There were koala credit cards, koala bus routes, and innumerable toys and products marketed with pictures of koalas. Weekends saw Taipei Zoo’s visitor numbers climb to over 80,000 people.
Patrick is survived by two sons, aged 11 and 9.
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