An international breeding programme for Australia’s iconic and increasingly threatened koalas is being launched by Longleat later this year.
As part of a major new initiative, a group of up to six southern koalas will travel from Cleland Wildlife Park in Adelaide to Longleat in Wiltshire. After spending time in quarantine, the koalas will be transferred into Koala Creek, a purpose-built area with a 4,000 tree eucalyptus plantation and natural stream.
In 2012 the koala was listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under Australian Law and is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
Longleat will act as a European hub for the newly-created International Koala Centre of Excellence (ICKE), which was set up by the Government of South Australia to enhance the management and conservation of the koala.
Viscount Weymouth Ceawlin Thynn, who is International Patron for the organisation, said: “Australian native species are a source of great fascination around the world, and we are privileged to be able to share them and their important conservation message with our visitors,” he said.
“We already growing a plantation of 4,000 eucalyptus trees to ensure the koalas have their favourite food on hand, and one of our keepers has been working at Cleland to get to know our new arrivals,” he added.
Longleat’s Koala Creek will be the only place to see koalas in England, one of only two locations in the UK, and the only one in Europe to look after southern koalas.
There are two main subspecies of koala; the smaller northern variety and the southern koala which has much thicker fur and can weigh twice as much as their northern relatives.
For more information on visiting Longleat go to www.longleat.co.uk