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