The State Government has announced that up to six koalas and two wombats from Cleland Wildlife Park will be transferred to Longleat in England to become international conservation ambassadors.
“Longleat is not only an extremely popular tourist destination, it has a proven track record for conservation and research and we’re delighted to be partnering with them,” said Minister Speirs.
“We have a terrific opportunity to share a vital message about Australian native species with England’s premiere safari park that attracts more than a million visitors every year.
“The ambassador species from Cleland will be living in the specially-designed Koala Creek enclosure, which will include a natural spring, themed indoor and outdoor habitats, viewing areas, and interpretation boards, as well as other specialist facilities.
“The koalas and wombats will make the journey to the UK later this year, and are expected to go on display in the first half of next year.”
The announcement comes following the launch of International Koala Centre of Excellence (IKCE) on Friday night.
Longleat custodian Ceawlin Thynn, Viscount Weymouth, is currently visiting Adelaide to celebrate the launch of the IKCE at Cleland, for which he is international patron.
“This newly-established national centre for koala research will support researchers based in Australia and elsewhere,” said Minister Speirs.
“We are extremely pleased to have Viscount Weymouth as the International Patron for IKCE.
“Both he and the Viscountess champion major conservation and research projects throughout the world, and are in an excellent position to support the IKCE Foundation.”
Viscount Weymouth said Longleat would declare 2019 as the ‘Year of the Koala’.
“Australian native species are a source of great fascination around the world, and we feel privileged to be able to share them and their important conservation message with our visitors,” he said.
“We already have a plantation of 4000 eucalyptus trees to ensure the koalas have their favourite food on hand, and one of our keepers from Longleat has been working with the Cleland staff since June to learn how to care for Australian native species.
“When the koalas travel to England, they will be accompanied by the Cleland curator and vet, and a koala carer who will remain with them while they settle in to ensure they have the best possible care.”