October 12, 2018 / 11:44 AM / 7 months ago

English safari park welcomes Europe's first southern koalas

LONDON (Reuters) - Five southern koalas arrived at their new home in England late on Thursday in a bid to help boost the numbers of the vulnerable marsupials, after a move planned out and prepared over more than two years.

The four females and one male, the only southern koalas in Europe, will reside at the Longleat Safari Park in southwest England having completed their more than 30-hour journey from Adelaide, south Australia.

“They’ve gone from literally learning how to be in the crate, learning about these plane noises, learning about the keepers,” James William Dennis, an animal keeper at Longleat, said of the preparation.

The move was part of an initiative by the South Australia government to grow koala numbers. The Australian government declared the species vulnerable in 2012 after habitat destruction, road accidents and dog attacks reduced their numbers to fewer than 100,000.

Southern koalas are much heavier than their northern counterparts and have thicker fur to protect them through winter.

“It’s the first individuals within Europe. So it’s a big, big step toward helping the species survive and also helping other species which need help,” Dennis added.

Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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