OP­ER­A­TION KOALA

Five furry re­cruits flown 10,000 miles to the UK to help pro­tect the species

Daily Mail - - DR MAX - By Tom Payne

PERCHED up high on a eu­ca­lyp­tus tree, this koala looks like she is set­tling in very well to her new home.

She is one of five who have been flown 10,000 miles from Aus­tralia to Bri­tain as part of a project to pro­tect the species.

They trav­elled by plane on Thurs­day night in crates filled with eu­ca­lyp­tus branches, along with two south­ern hairy-nosed wom­bats.

When they landed in Lon­don, they were met by a fleet of ze­bra-striped 4x4s and promptly driven to Lon­gleat Sa­fari Park in Wilt­shire.

The semi-wild koalas – four fe­males and one male – are from Cle­land Wildlife Park in south Aus­tralia. The mar­su­pi­als, all aged be­tween two and three, are now liv­ing in Lon­gleat’s pur­pose­built Koala Creek en­clo­sure, with 4,000 eu­ca­lyp­tus trees, a nat­u­ral stream and climb­ing poles. The creek will be open to vis­i­tors from Easter next year af­ter they have set­tled in.

It will be the only place in Europe where vis­i­tors can see south­ern koalas, the thicker-furred va­ri­ety, which can weigh twice as much as north­ern koalas. The project is part of a con­ser­va­tion drive to ‘back-up’ the species away from bush­fires and dis­ease in Aus­tralia.

Graeme Dick, head of an­i­mal ad­ven­ture at Lon­gleat, said the koalas are in ex­cel­lent health and set­tling in well. He said: ‘If we lose koalas as a species, there’s noth­ing else like them.’

Epic trip: Land­ing in the UK on Thurs­day Branching out: One of the koalas and above, with an Aus­tralian keeper

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