HERE’S LOOKIN’ AARR-CHOO! Cle­land photo ban for flu-stricken koalas

EX­CLU­SIVE

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MATT SMITH

THE wors­en­ing flu sea­son has left thou­sands of South Aus­tralians bedrid­den, in­clud­ing a most un­likely vic­tim – the cud­dly koala.

And even their love of in­fluenza-re­liev­ing eu­ca­lyp­tus oil hasn’t helped.

The virus has been so wide­spread, the high­ly­pop­u­lar koala ex­pe­ri­ences at Cle­land Wildlife Park in the Ade­laide Hills have been put on hold for al­most three months as three-quar­ters of the mar­su­pi­als bat­tle the flu.

Cle­land, where koala pack­ages range from $30 to $350 for pri­vate ses­sions spruiked as “a great way to meet and pat a koala” and take pho­tos, is one of the few places in Aus­tralia of­fer­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Rolling Stones gui­tarist Ron­nie Wood, Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, Grammy award-win­ning singer Mariah Carey and Green Day drum­mer Tre Cool are some of the high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties who have been pho­tographed hold­ing koalas at the wildlife park.

All 57 koalas were quar­an­tined on June 21, with the ex­pec­ta­tion they would be avail­able for hold­ing and be­hind-thescenes hand-feed­ing tours by mid-July.

Apart from three days in late July when “closeup” ex­pe­ri­ences were avail­able, the koalas have re­mained out of bounds to vis­i­tors.

An En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment spokes­woman said three-quar­ters of the 57 koalas at Cle­land had ex­pe­ri­enced flu-like symp-toms on and off dur­ing the past few weeks. She said: “Symp­toms are coughs, snif­fles, and nasal dis­charge.

“Some koalas are still on dis­play.

“The koalas are un­der the ex­pert care of the Cle­land vet, who has pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion for some of the koalas, and rest and flu­ids for all.

“The koalas are also be­ing man­aged un­der strict quar­an­tine con­di­tions.

“Cold and wet weather over the past few months has prob­a­bly hin­dered their re­cov­ery and we hope all the koalas will re­turn to full health, and pub­lic dis­play soon.”

It ap­pears not all koalas in the Hills have suf­fered the same fate. Those at Gorge Wildlife Park, about 30km away at Cudlee Creek, have not been af­fected.

The Cle­land quar­an­tine started just a month af­ter En­vi­ron­ment Min­ster Ian Hunter an­nounced a new “be­hindthe-scenes tour aimed at en­cour­ag­ing in­ter­na­tional tourists to add the iconic Ade­laide at­trac­tion to their Aus­tralian itin­er­ar­ies”.

The wildlife park up­dated its koala en­clo­sure in prepa­ra­tion for greater vis­i­tor in­ter­ac­tion with the koalas to mark its 50th an­niver­sary this year.

DREADED LURGY: Cle­land Wildlife Park’s 57 koalas have been quar­an­tined be­cause of the flu and, top, Rolling Stones gui­tarist Ron­nie Wood meets one of the lo­cals in 2014.

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