Passengers taking a flight from Dusseldorf to Edinburgh on Thursday night were surprised to find they were sharing the cabin with a koala.
The 19-month-old Queensland koala, named Tanami, had his own seat throughout the journey and was on a 700 mile trip from Duisburg Zoo in Germany to join Scotland’s only koalas at Edinburgh Zoo.
Part of a conservation breeding programme, Tanami is trading places with Toorie, Edinburgh Zoo’s young male koala, who will be making the return flight to Duisburg Zoo next week.
Darren McGarry, Head of Living Collections at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “Koalas are very sensitive animals, so special care needs to be taken when transporting them. They travel in the plane’s cabin and not in the hold so keepers can easily make sure everything’s okay during the flight.
“We are very excited to have Tanami join us here at the zoo. Koalas are a real favourite among our visitors and it’s great to see him settling in well and enjoying his new surroundings.”
McGarry added: “Toorie will be missed by everyone here at Edinburgh Zoo, but we are proud to see him playing his part in the conservation of the species.”
Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “We welcome passengers from all over the world to Edinburgh Airport but not all of them are as special or as cute as a koala! It was quite exciting to have Tanami arriving here and he joins a list of famous animals who have touched down here to make Edinburgh Zoo their new home.”
Koalas are native to the Eastern coast of Australia, although their numbers are in decline. The eucalyptus forests that koalas depend upon for survival are disappearing to make way for roads and housing. When koalas move from one tree to another they are on the ground, making them very vulnerable to predators, including wild and domestic dogs, and many are hit by cars.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland makes regular contributions to support conservation projects in Australia that help to rehabilitate sick and injured koalas and release them back into the wild.
Tanami will take the weekend to settle into his new home but visitors can look forward to seeing him in the coming weeks and months. For more information go to www.edinburghzoo.org.uk