Say ‘g’day’ to Longleat’s new arrivals
You’ve heard the expression, ‘when pigs fly’; what about koalas and wombats? Turns out the Aussie marsupials can indeed soar successfully through the air – well, at least when they’re flown by the world’s best airline.
In partnership with Longleat Safari Park, a Singapore Airlines cargo aircraft flew four cuddly koalas and two wombats (their closest relatives) from Adelaide to the UK in October 2018, as part of a conservation project to protect this vulnerable species.
After leaving their former home at Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide and enjoying a restful flight, the well-travelled marsupials were met on the runway by Longleat’s zebra-print safari vehicles, which whisked them back to Wiltshire. At their new home, they were given a full health check and declared fit and well (and thankfully with zero signs of jet lag).
Longleat’s Graeme Dick 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 koalas’ arrival is part of a ground-breaking initiative by the Government of South Australia to enhance the management and conservation of the koala. The project will provide valuable research into conservation, which will help protect the koala population in South Australia as a preventative measure against becoming endangered. In 2012, the koala was listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ in some parts of Australia.
Since October, Longleat’s latest arrivals have been settling into the park alongside a pair of southern hairy-nosed wombats, away from the eyes of visitors.
Their new home, a spacious enclosure called Koala Creek, includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, naturally-themed indoor and outdoor habitats, viewing areas, interpretation boards and a Koala Care unit. This brand new purpose-built facility will open to visitors this spring.
Longleat will be the only place where visitors can see koalas in England, one of only two locations in the UK, and the only one in Europe to look after southern koalas, which have much thicker fur and can weigh twice as much as their smaller northern relatives.
Sheldon Hee, General Manager, Singapore Airlines UK and Ireland commented: “As Australia’s most frequent foreign visitor, including almost 35 years of flights to Adelaide, Singapore Airlines is as captivated by the koala as any other and fully supports the conservation programme which is bringing them to the UK. 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!”