Excited visitors at Edinburgh Zoo have recently been able to catch a glimpse of the UKâ€™s first ever koala joey as it starts to emerge from mum Alingaâ€™s pouch.
Joeys have aÂ gestation period of only 30-35 days, though when born the joey is very underdeveloped and roughly the size of a jelly bean. Despite being born blind with no ears or fur, the joey crawls into the motherâ€™s pouch where it spends another six months growing.Â The new joey, which is still to be sexed and named, was born around mid-May and now that it is fully developed and has grown almost all of its fur, it has started to become more active. Using CCTV footage, keepers have been able to watch the joey emerge from the pouch late at night, and last week they were treated to seeing the youngster emerge completely from mumâ€™s pouch for the first time and climb onto her back.
Lorna Hughes, Team Leader for Koalas, Hoofstock and Primates at Edinburgh Zoo, said,Â â€œA lot of people expected the joey to just suddenly appear one day, but the process has been more gradual. Over the past few weeks, patient visitors have spotted a nose or a pink arm poking out. Now you are more likely to see the joeyâ€™s whole head or if you are very lucky the whole thing! At around 3pm on Sunday the joey emerged completely from Alingaâ€™s pouch; this was the first time it had done that during daylight hours.
“We will wait until the joey is spending all of its time outside of the pouch before weighing and sexing it, though we are very happy with its progress so far. First-time mum Alinga is also doing very well, and has taken to being a mother like a natural; she is very relaxed even when the little joey is wriggling about.â€
Edinburgh Zoo is the only zoo in the UK to house koalas and has been part of the European breeding programme for eight years.Â The birth of the UKâ€™s first ever koala joey at Edinburgh Zoo has been an enormous achievement for keepers. Two-year-old Alinga is the first female koala to arrive at the Zoo and successfully fell pregnant during her first introduction to one of the two adults males, Goonaroo.
Darren McGarry, Head of Living Collections for Edinburgh Zoo said,Â â€œAs koalas are solitary animals, bringing them together for mating required a lot of skill. So for Alinga to successfully breed on the first attempt is a great accomplishment for the team.â€
Alinga will soon start to carry the joey on her back until it is around one year old. When it reaches sexual maturity, at approximately two years old, the joey will enter the breeding programme. If it is female, it may stay at Edinburgh Zoo to breed with the unrelated male Yabbra, though if it is male it will move to another collection in Europe.