9 US Zoos with Koalas You Can See

Koalas are naturally native to southeastern and eastern Australia, but US zoos with koalas have now become possible due to drought, diseases, and bushfires that have been occurring in their Australian habitats in recent years.

More and more zoos in Northern America are opening their gates to foster and nurture koalas who have lost 80% of their original habitats and have been listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

If you’re wondering how you can see these awesome creatures in person, here’s an updated list of US zoos with koalas as mainstays.

US zoos with Koalas: San Diego Zoo’s Koala Loan Program

Of all the best US zoos, San Diego Zoo has been leading US zoos in working with Australia for the protection, conservation, and studies of koalas for decades.

They even have scientists working both at the San Diego zoo and St. Bees in Australia to continue learning more about mating, diet, and more.

Since 1983, San Diego Wildlife Alliance has shared koalas with zoos in the country and around the world through its Koala Loan Program.

How Many Koalas are at the San Diego Zoo?

About 53 koalas are homed across 9 US zoos.

Koalas at San Diego zoo
Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo FB

There are over 20 koalas at the San Diego Zoo’s “Koalifornia” exhibit.

You can view them live online at the koala cam.

Note that from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time, you’re watching the live cam while it’s daytime in San Diego. While it’s dark, from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. San Diego Zoo rebroadcasts that morning’s stream.

You can visit San Diego Zoo at 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 with one-day pass tickets ranging from $55 to $65.

Why don’t more zoos have Koalas?

If you’re wondering why aren’t koalas at more zoos, it’s not because US zoos don’t want them.

Unfortunately, many of the participating US zoos with koalas can only accommodate them temporarily because koalas live in very specific areas in Australia: southern coasts and inland areas of Queensland Australia where eucalyptus trees are found.

Koalas thrive in cool-temperate to tropical areas, which is why some US zoos can only accept them during summertime. For example:

  • The Indianapolis Zoo loaned koalas Thackory and Milo for the summer of 2015, but gave the duo back to San Diego Zoo after the season ended.
  • The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota loaned two koalas (named Moki and Burra) from the San Diego Zoo. They were part of the zoo’s “Koala Wilds” exhibit from May to September 2017.

The San Diego Zoo loans around 30 koalas to other US zoos throughout the year.

Which US Zoo will feature these koalas next?

Unfortunately, San Diego Wildlife Alliance does not publish a list of the next zoos to be loaned koalas.

In most cases, the recipient zoo will be the one marketing this loan program to its visitors.

8 Other US Zoos with Koalas (Aside from San Diego Zoo)

So far, there are only 9 US zoos with koalas that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to house them permanently.

While many of the zoos below got their koalas from the San Diego Zoo, these 8 US zoos with koalas now have AZA-accredited permanent habitats with many of them successfully welcoming baby koalas to their respective zoos as well.

1. ZooTampa

  • Address: 1101 W Sligh Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  • Tickets: $35 to $45/day for one-day admission. Encounters need to be pre-booked and cost around $15 to $20 per person for non-members.
what zoos have koalas
Photo Credit: ZooTampa at Lowry Park FB

There are three ways you can see koalas at Zoo Tampa:

  • Get close to koalas with ZooTampa’s Photo Encounter: Get super-close to the koalas and take as many photos as you like within the timeslot you’ve pre-booked. There’s additional fees for the photo encounter and it isn’t available all year, so check this page before you visit.

This encounter is open at 10am Saturdays and Sundays. Note that tickets ($29.95 for members or $34.95 for non-members) must be purchased in advanced. Kids 2 or younger get in free.

  • Visit the Wallaroo Station: If the Photo Encounter isn’t available, don’t worry. You can still see the koalas at the Wallaroo Station, the zoo’s Australia-themed family area that mixes splash pads, rollercoasters, and kiddie playgrounds with access to real-life animals like emus, wallabies, bats, and koalas.
  • Host a birthday party: A dedicated space at the 4.3-acre Wallaroo Station can be closed off for birthdays and other private events.

In Spring 2024, ZooTampa is opening an entire section for “Australia” animals like llamas, Nigeran dwarf goats and Queensland koalas. There will also be Aussie-themed activities such as Billabong splash pad.

2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Zoos in US with koalas
Photo Credit: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium FB

This Ohio zoo doesn’t have any photo programs or close-up encounters with the koalas, but Columbus Zoo and Aquarium does have a permanent zoo section called “Australia and the Islands.”

Columbus Zoo featured koalas Katy and Thoar (both came from San Diego Zoo in 2015), who became parents to a koala joey in 2020.

In 2022, then-6-year-old Thoar died after his health significantly declined.

By 2024, three koalas call Columbus Zoo home: Katy, Kora and Koen.

  • Katy was born on November 5, 2015 and came to the Columbus Zoo in 2017 when she was two years old. Katy’s keeper calls her “sassy” to them, but a “great mom” to two babies, Ellin and Kora.
  • While Ellin moved to another zoo for breeding, Kora stayed at Columbus Zoo. She is described with a unique and “feisty” personality.
  • Koen is the newest and only male koala at Columbus Zoo. His keepers describe him as friendly, adventuruous and very sweet. Born on April 3, 2021, he joined the zoo family in December 2022 but was only made viewable to the public in Spring 2023.

3. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Koalas in US
Photo Credit: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo FB

Explore Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Australian Adventure to visit koalas year-round and see kangaroos and wallabies roam. The zoo is also home to the Gumleaf Hideout where they eat leaves of eucalyptus trees in both indoor and outdoor habitats.

Koalas McKenzie and Maya call the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo home. They are mom-and-daughter koalas (Maya was born at the zoo just before the pandemic began).

In November 2023, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo officially welcomed a male koala joey named Bulu. He was born to mom Mackenzie and dad Nyoonbi in March 2023, since koalas stayed in his mama’s pouch for 5 to 7 months.

Bulu is Machekzie’s third joey and Nyoonbi’s fourth joey.

Cleveland Metroparks has some interesting experiences, such as the 90-minute Inside Track program where visitors ride a golf cart and get close opportunities with the koalas and other animals.

4. Zoo Miami

what zoos have Koalas
Photo Credit: JustoRuiz, Capturing smiles one shot at a time ©

At Zoo Miami, you’ll find over 3,000 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and other highly-endangered animals like koalas.

There’s a koala couple at Zoo Miami: “Milo,” a male Queensland Koala, and “Rinny” the female koala who gave birth to “Hope” in May 2019.

Unfortunately, baby Hope died in mid-2021 due to recurring gastrointestinal issues.

5. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

  • Address: 1301 Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33405
  • Tickets: Toddlers (2 years old and below) go in free. Admissions for kids ages 3-12 is around $19, teens to adults ages 13 to 59 is around $25, while seniors (60+) pay $23.
where can I see koalas in US
Photo Credit: Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society FB

Palm Beach Zoo used to have two koalas – Oz and Katherine. They lived at the facility’s Koala Forest, in the Islands section.

At the time, the Palm Beach Zoo had a famous koala experience program (it is 1 of 8 animal close-encounters available at the zoo).

But when they died in 2020-2021 six months apart, the program was temporarily put on hold.

In 2021, the zoo took in a then-2-year-old male Queensland koala named Sydney. He was born in 2018 to parents Heathcliff and Ceduna, who are related to former Palm Beach Zoo residents Oz and Katherine.

For awhile, Sydney lived alone at the Koala Forest. In 2023, the zoo welcomed another Queensland koala, this time, a female, named Ellin.

Note that the Koala Experience is paid on top of your zoo admission tickets. While you aren’t allowed to touch or hold the Koalas (for the safety of these gorgeous creatures), you can get a lot closer for $60/person (with a max of 4 people per experience).

6. Los Angeles Zoo

  • Address: 5333 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027
  • Tickets: Infants 23 months or younger go in free. Admission fees for kids 2 and higher range between $17 and $22 for a single-day pass. Membership plans are available, too!
US zoos with Koalas
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens FB

Many people ask: Does the LA Zoo have koalas? It’s an understandable question. A couple of years back, LA Zoo had horrific news about its family member koala (an elderly female named Killarney) that went missing and was suspected of being killed by its famous mountain lion neighbor named P-22.

LA Zoo still has koalas today. The furry marsupials from Australia are found in a special exhibit, which allows them to sleep many hours each day (trivia: it’s normal for koalas to sleep 22 hours a day).

LA Zoo’s two resident koalas female Maya and male Burra were introduced into the same habitat in 2022 (in hopes of naturally getting busy and producing their own koala joey).

The special experiences at LA Zoo are temporarily closed, but even when it was open to the public, the zoo had no program for the koalas. There are, however, Elephant Training demonstrations, World of Birds show, Hippo Encounters and Giraffe Feedings.

7. San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

koalas in California
Photo Credit: San Francisco Zoo website

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens has a couple of koalas living in their specially-designated “forest” called Koala Crossing.

When the temperature is between 65 and 80 degrees, the koalas may be seen munching eucalyptus leaves and snoozing in the zoo’s outdoor enclosure. On chilly days, you’ll see the koalas keep warm in an indoor exhibit (don’t worry, there are windows you can see through).

San Francisco Zoo is known to host naming contests for many of their new-arrival koalas as a way to raise money for Australia’s koala population.

In early 2020, supporters named the koala Cobar Wollemi (pronounced Coe-bar Wall-em-eye) and raised $15,000. The zoo again began a naming/bidding contest in May 2022 for a newly-arrived female koala.

8. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

  • Address: 500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210
  • Tickets: The price of Koala Backstage is per private tour with a capacity of 6 total guests. $180/tour Riverbanks members and $220/tour general public. Plus single-day admission rates per person are between $18 to $22 (depending on age).
which US zoos allow photos with koalas
Photo Credit: Riverbanks Zoo FB

Come see several Australian animals at the Koala Knockabout section, where koalas, Australian fish, kangaroos, wallabies and reptiles are found.

Riverbanks Zoo has a “Koala Backstage” experience available as group tours.

Each ticket lets up to 6 participants (ages 8+) to hang out with the zoo’s pickiest eaters. You’ll get to learn all about the care and keeping of these magnificent marsupials, then step into their habitat and snap a rare photo with a koala!

The Future of Koalas in US Zoos

There’s still hope for koalas to reproduce and get out of the vulnerable status. In fact, a wide range of animals from around the world have successfully avoided extinction thanks to many conservation programs. Examples include the Kenyan Bongo Antelope, the majestic California Condor, the wow-worthy Arabian Onyx, the striking Golden Lion Tamarin, and Amur Leopards, among many others.

If your search for US zoos with koalas doesn’t fit your budget, schedule, or itinerary and you’d love to check out other kid-friendly destinations, I recommend you read:

And my favorite list of absolutely-free zoos you can visit in the US.

Go Out and Explore