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The UK’s first ever koala joey has been born, keepers at Edinburgh Zoo have announced, after the introduction of female Alinga and her mate Goonaroo in April.
“We are all immensely excited by the birth of the UK’s first ever koala joey,” said Donald Gow, senior keeper at the zoo. “Koalas are very sensitive creatures with a very selective diet and the husbandry can be extremely challenging“.
Koalas have a gestation period of 30-35 days and keepers believe that the joey was born in mid-May. As koala joeys are born very underdeveloped – blind, about the size of a jelly bean and with no ears or fur – they remain in their mother’s pouch for around six months.
During its time in the pouch, the joey will suckle on milk and a substance called “pap”, which is a special type of dropping produced by the mother, which contains micro-organisms which are vital for digesting eucalyptus leaves later in life. According to keepers, Alinga is very relaxed and has recently started allowing them to feel the pouch. The joey currently weighs around 100-150 grams and is expected to poke its head out of the pouch in mid-October.
Following this, it should start to climb onto Alinga’s stomach in mid-November, by which time it will weigh 400 grams.
Around December the joey will then move onto Alinga’s back and zoo keepers will weigh, sex and name it. It will remain on its mother’s back until it is about 12 months old.