Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire has welcomed seven antipodean additions to its estate as part of a long-term conservation project, writes Angie Cronin.
Five koalas and two wombats from Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide were transported to their new home today (October 12) where they were given a full health check and declared fit and well.
Graeme Dick, a spokesman from Longleat, said: “This is the culmination of a two-year project and the beginning of an exciting new era. We hope these animals will act as conservation ambassadors for the species, and promote conservation and education about Australian marsupials.”
The koalas’ arrival is part of an initiative by the government of South Australia to enhance the management and conservation of the koala.
The project will enable research into conservation that will help protect the koala population in South Australia as a preventative measure against becoming endangered.
Longleat will act as a European hub for the newly-created International Koala Centre of Excellence (IKCE).
Longleat custodian Lord Weymouth has also agreed to be the international patron of the IKCE.
The five koalas will now spend six months away from visitors to the park as they settle into their new home alongside a pair of southern hairy nosed wombats, which are the koalas’ closest relative.
Their new enclosure, called Koala Creek includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, naturally-themed indoor and outdoor habitats, viewing areas, interpretation boards as well as a Koala Care unit.
The facility is due to open to visitors to Longleat in spring 2019.
Longleat 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.
Pictured: Cleland keeper Ashleigh Hunter with one of the koalas at Longleat.