Staff and students at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo said goodbye to a cherished member of the zoo family, Katrina the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, on Tuesday, May 24th. The morning prior, staff became concerned when Karina, a highly food motivated individual, refused her diet and exhibited abnormal behavior. She was immediately transported to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Zoological Medicine Service, where diagnostic tests revealed a mass which veterinarians deemed inoperable and diagnosed as osteosarcoma. Burdened with the knowledge that her condition would continue to deteriorate rapidly, staff at the zoo made the difficult decision to euthanize Katrina to alleviate her from further pain.
During her eleven year residence at the Teaching Zoo, Katrina was a true ambassador for Matschie˙s tree kangaroos. The 16 year old spent her days with her companion PJ in their “condo”, and although she was often a bit cantankerous towards his doting advances, they lived in harmony together. Kathy Russell, Curator at the zoo, attributes Katrina with teaching her how to be an effective trainer. At the start of everyday, Kathy would work with her so she could weigh her and check her pouch, a routine that would become her favorite part of her work day. Occasionally, students would volunteer to come in early to assist Kathy with her work. One student in particular, Candis Malcolm, took advantage of this opportunity by volunteering once a week for almost a year. Since graduating, Candis went on to work as a keeper at the Chattanooga Zoo in Chattanooga, Tennessee and now the Dallas Zoo in Dallas, Texas, but has yet to have a chance to work with Matschie’s tree kangaroos again. Candis said it was those morning interactions with Katrina and PJ years ago, which fueled her passion for these extraordinary animals and inspired her to travel to Papua New Guinea for the International Tree Kangaroo Summit.
Katrina made an everlasting impression on everyone who had the honor of meeting her and won countless hearts for tree kangaroos. The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo will continue to carry on her memory and strive to save this amazing species through education and conservation efforts. The Teaching Zoo still has four Matschie’s tree kangaroos, including a year old joey. To see these captivating animals and learn how you can make a difference for their wild counterparts, visit the Teaching Zoo, open every day from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.