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DALLAS Even though they doze 18 hours a day, Thursday or, what was left of it was a big date for Tekin and Kobi, the two koala bears on loan to the Dallas Zoo from San Diego.

Once a year, they join all the other zoo animals for a critically important health checkup. It s a lot like a human physical, except the marsupials are under anesthesia for everyone s safety.

I wouldn t be able to check their teeth or anything like that, not without getting bitten, said Dr. Geoff Pie, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo. They have a very nasty bite.

There are 10 people making sure the exam, blood pressure, X-rays and blood draws and performed quickly and efficiently.

We're really trying to minimize the time that they're under general anesthesia and get us much information as we can in a short period of time, said Lynn Kramer, a Dallas Zoo spokesman.

Because these two males are in an indoor exhibit, their San Diego veterinarian is looking for signs of bone degeneration from vitamin D deficiency.

With the fact that Dallas has an indoor exhibit, we're concerned about Vitamin D deficiency, so they've been doing a great job here, Pie said. They've got artificial UV lights in there, a bit of a tanning bed for the koalas; but they also have a little area where they go outside each day, get a little sunlight.

There are only 50 koalas in North America. As numbers dwindle in Australia, the health of the ambassadors from the wild is important to the survival of their species.

This checkup ensures visitors will long be able to enjoy healthy if not sleepy koalas.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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