New koala exhibit at Longleat Safari Park officially open to the public

The koalas have spent the last six months settling into their new home at the wildlife park. Credit: Longleat Safari Park

A new exhibit to house the only koalas in England is officially open to the public at Longleat Safari Park.

Viscount Weymouth opened Koala Creek on Wednesday 27 March ahead of its public opening today (Friday 29 March).

The park's new feature is home to four southern koalas who were brought to Wiltshire last year as part of a project to protect the species from becoming endangered in South Australia.

Five koalas arrived at Longleat in October last year but staff were forced to put one down after she developed a kidney disease. Credit: Longleat Safari Park

Five koalas were originally housed in the new habitat but one died earlier this year after developing a serious kidney disease.

Staff announced they had to make the decision to put the female koala down after she contracted oxalate nephrosis.

The Born Free Foundation disagreed with the conservation project when the koala's arrival was announced in October last year.

The organisation said there is no "benefit to genuine conservation" and branded the move as "exploitation for the entertainment of visitors".

Staff at the wildlife park defend the project though and say it "enables valuable research into conservation" and will "raise funds for koala management".

The animals have spent the last six months settling into their new home which also features a Koala Care unit.

Longleat is now the European hub for the new International Koala Centre of Excellence, IKCE, and is the only place to see the animals in England.

The park is also the only place in Europe to house southern koalas.

The exhibit will be open to the public this Friday. Credit: Longleat Safari Park

Koalas are marsupials and most females carry their babies in a pouch.

People commonly refer to the animal as a 'bear', using the term 'koala bear', but the correct term is simply 'koala'.

They often sleep for up to 20 hours each day.