Longleat welcomes baby southern koala in European first

  • WATCH: The baby koala with its mum, Violet

A baby koala is set to make its first appearance at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire this weekend.

The southern koala is the only one to have ever been born in Europe and is a major milestone for the park, which opened a purpose-built facility in 2019.

Born six months ago, the baby has spent the start of its life safely inside its mum's pouch.

The keepers don't know the gender of the joey yet but hope to once it begins to spend more time outside. It will remain largely dependent on its mother until it's up to a year old.

The gender of the joey is still unknown Credit: Ian Turner

Lord Bath has been instrumental in bringing koalas to Longleat and is the patron of the Koala Life charitable organisation based in South Australia.

He said: "The arrival of the first baby southern koala is a huge event for the entire team here and something we have all been working towards and hoping for since we launched the new facility three years ago."

"We are delighted with how well both mother and baby are doing. As well as being a first for us, this is also Violet’s first experience of motherhood and she is proving to be a caring and attentive parent.

"We are still not fully sure on the sex of the joey but hope to get a better idea when it starts to spend more time outside of the pouch. Currently we want to leave them alone as much as possible."

The baby has spent the first six months of its life safely inside its mum's pouch Credit: Ian Turner

Longleat has been working closely with the Government of South Australia and Cleland Wildlife Park at the facility, known as Koala Creek.

Keeper, James Dennis, said the birth is really important in order to raise awareness of the threat the southern koala faces in the wild.

He said: "One of the most concerning issues with regard to southern koalas in Australia is the high levels of inbreeding and so the fact we are able to begin establishing a genetically diverse population here in Europe is also really important."

In the aftermath of the bushfires, keepers travelled to South Australia to help with the recovery programme and in 2020, Longleat donated over £50,000 to support koala conservation and recovery programmes.

Professor Chris Daniels, from the University of South Australia and Chair of Koala Life, said: "Longleat now has a small but vital group of healthy animals free of debilitating diseases including chlamydia and retrovirus. This will help us understand how to keep sanctuary populations heathy and provide important information about the effects of these diseases.

"So, this joey represents a small, but vital step in the process to secure the long-term survival of one of the world's most loved animals. A major achievement."