Five koalas and two wombats from Cleland Wildlife Park have arrived safe and well at Longleat Safari Park in England following an epic journey from Adelaide.
The iconic marsupials were special guests on a Singapore Airlines Cargo aircraft and were accompanied by keepers from Longleat and Cleland as well as a veterinary team.
After travelling via Singapore, the animals touched down at Heathrow Airport on Friday morning (Adelaide time) and were picked up from the runway by a fleet of Longleat’s iconic zebra-striped Safari vehicles.
The animals were then transported to the Wiltshire estate where they were given a full health check and declared fit and well.
Longleat’s Graeme Dick, said all of the animals appear to be 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,” Mr Dick said.
“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 Cleland Wildlife Park and the South Australian Government to enhance the management and conservation of the koala.
Cleland Director Chris Daniels said the park has been working closely with the team at Longleat to ensure the koalas and wombats receive the very best care and attention.
“The new facility at Longleat is fantastic and has been specifically designed with these animals in mind,” Professor Daniels said.
“Their safe arrival in the UK is a very exciting moment and will undoubtedly help raise awareness of these unique animals.”
The koalas will now spend around six months away from visitors as they settle into their new home, alongside a pair of southern hairy nosed wombats, which are the koalas’ closest relative.
Their spacious new enclosure, called Koala Creek includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, naturally-themed indoor and outdoor habitats, viewing areas, interpretation boards as well as a Koala Care unit. The new purpose built facility is due to open to visitors to Longleat from Spring 2019.
Longleat will be the only place to see koalas in England, one of only two locations in the UK, and the only one in Europe to look after southern koalas.
Longleat custodian Lord Weymouth has also agreed to be the International Patron of the International Koala Centre of Excellence (IKCE) based at Cleland, a new initiative to raise funds to support research for koala management and conservation.