Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire will host a baby koala this weekend.
The only European born southern koala has been found. This is a significant milestone for the park which opened a facility specifically designed for them in 2019.
Six months ago, the baby was born. It has spent its first six months in the pouch of its mother.
Although the keepers are not sure of the gender yet, they hope to find out once the joey starts to spend more time outdoors. It will be dependent on its mother for the first year.
Lord Bath was instrumental in the introduction of koalas in Longleat. He is also patron of the Koala Life charity organisation, which is based in South Australia.
He stated that the arrival of the first southern koala baby is an important event for all the team members and something they have been waiting for since the launch of the new facility three year ago.
“We are thrilled with the progress both mother and baby have made. This is Violet’s first time as a mother and it is an exciting experience. She is caring and attentive.
We are not sure about the sex of our joey, but we hope to have a better understanding when it spends more time outside the pouch. We want them to be left alone for as long as possible.
Longleat has been closely working with the Government of South Australia, Cleland Wildlife Park and the Koala Creek facility.
James Dennis, Keeper, stated that the birth was crucial in order to increase awareness about the threats the southern Koala face in the wild.
He stated that “One of the most worrying issues regarding southern koalas of Australia is the high level of inbreeding. So it is really important that we can begin to establish a genetically diverse populace here in Europe.”
Keepers traveled to South Australia in the aftermath of bushfires to assist with the recovery program. In 2020, Longleat donated more than PS50,000 to support koala conservation efforts and recovery programs.
Professor Chris Daniels from the University of South Australia, Chair of Koala Life said that Longleat now has a vital group of healthy animals, free of debilitating disease such as chlamydia or retrovirus. This will allow us to understand how sanctuary populations can be kept healthy and give important information about the diseases.
“So, this joey is a small but crucial step in the process of securing the long-term survival and well-being of one of the most beloved animals on the planet. This is a major accomplishment.