Five southern koalas have arrived at their new home in Wiltshire after flying 10,000 miles from Australia.
The iconic marsupials travelled from Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide to Longleat safari park in a bid to protect their species.
Conservation experts hope the koalas will act as ambassadors for the species in Europe.
They form part of an international effort to preserve the species by spreading small groups to parks and zoos across the globe.
Koala numbers have dropped nearly 80 per cent in some regions of Australia over the past two decades.
The fall is due in part to a deadly chlamydia epidemic that has ravaged the species, infecting 100 per cent of some wild populations.
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Five southern koalas have arrived at their new home in Wiltshire after flying 10,000 miles from Australia. Pictured is one of the koalas at the new enclosure at Longleat safari park
Pictured is Longleat koala keeper Chris Burr with one of the park’s new arrivals
Graeme Dick, of Longleat, said: ‘We’re delighted to announce the arrival of the koalas and wombats here at Longleat.
‘All appear in excellent health and are settling in well.
‘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 group were special guests on a Singapore Airlines Cargo aircraft, accompanied by keepers and a veterinary team.
After touching down at Heathrow on Thursday night, the koalas were picked up from the runway and transported to Longleat.
Longleat staff have been training in koala care in Australia. Conservation experts hope the koalas will act as ambassadors for the species in Europe
The koalas form part of an international effort to preserve the species by spreading small groups to parks and zoos across the globe. This image shows one of the koalas at the new enclosure in Longleat
Pictured are two of the marsupials at the Koala enclosure at Cleland Wildlife Park in Adelaide
They were given a full health check on arrival and declared fit and well.
The arrival of the koalas is part of an initiative by the Government of South Australia to enhance the management and conservation of the koala.
The project will enable conservation research that will help to protect the koala population in South Australia.
Southern koalas, which have thicker fur and can weigh twice as much as northern koalas, are not an endangered species but are considered to be vulnerable.
Bill Muirhead, agent general of the Government of South Australia, said: ‘We are thrilled to welcome our South Australian ambassador animals to the UK, these creatures are an integral part of helping us spread the native conservation message.
South Australia Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs (left) and Cleland Director Chris Daniels are seen with Bel, a 13-year-old Koala, at the Koala enclosure at Cleland Wildlife Park in Adelaide
Pictured is one of the iconic marsupials at Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide, where they travelled from this week
‘The arrival of the first Southern koalas in Europe is now a milestone in the fight to protect the koala population in South Australia from becoming endangered.’
Longleat will act as a European hub for the newly-created International Koala Centre of Excellence.
The koalas will now spend around six months away from visitors to the part as they settle into their new home.
The koalas will now spend around six months away from visitors to the part as they settle into their new home
They will live alongside a pair of southern hairy nosed wombats, which are the koalas closest relatives.
Their enclosure, named Koala Creek, includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, naturally-themed indoor and outdoor habitats and a koala care unit.
The purpose built facility will be open to visitors from Spring 2019.
Chris Daniels, director of Cleland Wildlife Park, said: ‘We have been working closely with the team at Longleat to ensure the koalas and wombats receive the very best care and attention when they settle in.
Their enclosure, named Koala Creek (pictured), includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, naturally-themed indoor and outdoor habitats and a koala care unit. The purpose built facility will be open to visitors from Spring 2019
‘The new facility is fantastic and has been specifically designed with these animals in mind. Their arrival in the UK is a very exciting moment and will undoubtedly help raise awareness of these unique animals.’
Sheldon Hee, general manager of Singapore Airlines UK and Ireland said the airline fully supported the conservation programme.
‘We have been delighted to work closely with the team at Longleat to plan the animals’ journey and ensure they received the very best of care; including, mostly, lots of eucalyptus,’ Mr Hee said.
The koala was listed as vulnerable to extinction in some parts of Australia in 2012.
In this image a koala is checked over by a vet before departure to the UK. Southern koalas, which have thicker fur and can weigh twice as much as northern koalas, are not an endangered species but are considered to be vulnerable
WHAT IS CHLAMYDIA AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Chlamydia is a sexually-transmitted disease.
It stems from bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It is passed through contact, via vaginal, anal or oral sex.
If left untreated it can damage a woman’s fallopian tubes and cause infertility. In very rare cases it can cause infertility in men too.
Other animal species can suffer from chlamydia, with koalas the common example.
Some populations of koala in Australia have been devastated by the disease, with reports of up to 100 per cent infection.
What are the symptoms in humans?
The majority of people do not feel symptoms of chlamydia. Doctors recommend getting regular STD tests (urine test or swab) to detect it.
However, some do experience some side effects.
Symptoms in women:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Burning feeling when you urinate
- Pain in the eyes
- Pain in the abdomen
- Pain in the pelvis
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal bleeding
Symptoms in men:
- Discharge from the penis
- Burning feeling when you urinate
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (rarely)
How is it treated?
The infection is easily treated with antibiotics.
Doctors typically prescribe oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline.