Australia begins new koala breeding programme

Sydney, Dec 21 (IANS) Australia is implementing a new koala breeding programme to save fragmented populations of the tree-dwelling bear in the country’s east, a minister said on Wednesday.

Queensland tourist park Dreamworld and the University of Queensland will initially use two rehabilitated koalas to begin developing a living genome bank where captive bred joeys will eventually be released, an important contribution to koala habitat rehabilitation in the state’s southeast, Xinhua news agency reported.

“These rehabilitated koalas can now look forward to a productive future as we work to revitalise the region’s dwindling koala population,” Queensland state Environment Minister Steven Miles said.

“The establishment of a living genetic bank is an innovative response to the challenge of protecting koala numbers in the wild in south east Queensland and a great outcome for rehabilitated animals that can’t return to their homes.”

Dreamworld’s general manager of life sciences Al Mucci said the koalas and their offspring will be kept in a special enclosure away from public display areas in the park’s FutureLab, a joint project with Queeensland university to strengthen endangered species populations.

“We want to be able to release koalas which are bred through this programme to the wild and that needs careful and expert management so that the animals do not become used to people,” Mucci said.