Koalas and Wombats get the VIP treatment as they journey from South Australia to the UK

Five koalas and two wombats have arrived at Longleat in the UK following an epic journey from Adelaide, Australia.

The iconic marsupials, from Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide, in South Australia, were special guests on a Singapore Airlines Cargo aircraft accompanied by keepers from Longleat and Cleland as well as a veterinary team.

After touching down at Heathrow last night and being picked up from the runway by a fleet Longleat’s iconic zebra-striped Safari vehicles, the animals were transported to the Wiltshire estate where they were given a full health check and declared fit and well.

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,” he added.

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.

This initiative forms part of the International Koala Centre of Excellence (IKCE) launched earlier this year. The Centre aims to establish Adelaide as the ‘home of the koala’ by funding and directing ground-breaking research into our understanding and conservation of Australia’s best loved species.

Bill Muirhead AM Agent General for South Australia commented. “We are thrilled to welcome our South Australian ambassador animals to the UK, these creatures are an integral part of helping us spread the native conservation message.

As home to some of the last major koala populations, the Government of South Australia are particularly passionate about the valuable research into conservation the new International Koala Centre of Excellence can provide. The arrival of the first Southern koalas in Europe is now a milestone in the fight to protect the koala population in South Australia from becoming endangered.”

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 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.

“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 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!”, said Sheldon Hee, General Manager, Singapore Airlines UK and Ireland.

The Office of the Agent General looks forward to welcoming the wombats and koalas when Koala Creek is open to visitors in Spring 2019. In recognition of this, the South Australia Club will be hosting a Koala Gala, members please click here for further information.