THE UK’s first ever baby koala has been born at Edinburgh Zoo, delighted keepers have announced.
The joey was believed to have been born in mid-May and is the first for its two-year-old mother Alinga, who arrived at the zoo earlier this year. Alinga, the zoo’s first female koala, was introduced to mate Goonaroo, one of its two males, in April and keepers have hailed the successful breeding as a “significant achievement”.
The gestation period for koalas is 30-35 days, but young are extremely underdeveloped at birth - being blind, bald and having no ears.
A joey then spends a further six to seven months developing in its mother’s pouch, where it suckles on milk and a special type of dropping called pap that will help it digest the eucalyptus leaves that will become its staple diet.
The joey, which weighs about 100g-150g, is expected to first pop its head out of the pouch by the middle of next month and will begin to climb on to its mother’s belly around mid-November. This is when visitors are likely to be able to see it for the first time – though they won’t know its name or sex until December, when it clambers on to Alinga’s back to be carried around by her until it is about a year old.
Donald Gow, senior keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We are all immensely excited by the birth of the UK’s first ever koala joey.
“Koalas are very sensitive creatures with a very selective diet, and the husbandry can be extremely challenging. As they are solitary animals, it takes an expert eye to know how to successfully introduce a male and female together for breeding.
“There is a lot of dedication and skill involved in caring for koalas, and it is a significant achievement for everybody involved.”