Get out the eucalyptus to welcome new koalas

Share this article

THEY are the latest stars to arrive in the Capital after a trip of more than 5000 miles from California.

Travelling with their own personal assistant, they even have a supply of their favourite food being shipped over to keep them happy.

But these latest celebrity arrivals will not be treading the boards as part of the Festival - they are taking up residence in Edinburgh Zoo.

Koalas Chumbee and Jannali are expected to arrive at the zoo tomorrow with their keeper, who has looked after them on their long journey from San Diego Zoo in the United States.

The first koalas to be kept in a British zoo since 1992, they are expected to draw massive crowds to the Edinburgh attraction when they are eventually unveiled to the public.

But after a further delay in their trip staff at the zoo have decided not to go ahead with the planned opening of their latest exhibit on Saturday.

Instead they will be keeping the animals hidden for a few days, to let them settle in to their new surroundings.

The koalas were originally meant to arrive in June, but were delayed after immigration officials in the US took longer than expected to process their exit visas.

The latest delay, which has held them up by a few days, is believed to have been a problem arranging a flight to the UK.

When they eventually arrive the pair will be well looked after, with staff at the zoo preparing a specially heated enclosure to keep the koalas comfortable and protected from the Scottish elements. Australian birds and insects have also been moved into the enclosure to make the animals feel more at home.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: "Our animal department has decided, with the best possible welfare of the koalas in mind, that we should give them a few days to settle into their new surroundings in peace, as well as give the keepers the chance to get to know them."

On Monday they will be moved into their new home, a purpose-built enclosure which will mimic a large area of the animals' natural forest habitat.

Outside of Australia, San Diego Zoo is the biggest keeper and breeder of koalas and an American guardian has already visited Edinburgh to ensure conditions in the Capital are perfect for the cuddly creatures. A steady supply of the eucalyptus leaves enjoyed by koalas in their native homes in the eastern Australian states of Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales have been arriving at the zoo ahead of the new arrivals Chumbee and Jannali, whose names mean "torpedo bug" and "moon" in the Aboriginal language.

Graeme Gardiner, head of commercial services at the zoo, said: "We're disappointed our visitors will not get the chance to see the koalas this weekend, but the welfare of the animals is our top priority.

"The wait will be over on Monday lunchtime though, and I'm sure they'll be worth waiting for."

Back to the top of the page