Edinburgh Zoo unveils koala joey Yooranah

Lorna Hughes, the zoo's team leader for koalas, with Yooranah and a furry friend from the gift shop. Picture: Edinburgh Zoo
Lorna Hughes, the zoo's team leader for koalas, with Yooranah and a furry friend from the gift shop. Picture: Edinburgh Zoo
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Zookeepers in Edinburgh have unveiled their newest addition – the first koala joey to be born in the UK.

The tiny marsupial, who weighs just 600 grams, has been named Yooranah, an Aboriginal name which means “loving”.

The newest animal at the zoo was named by a guest who won a competition at a gala dinner celebrating the attraction’s centenary.

First-time mum Alinga, two, only arrived at the Corstorphine attraction last year, before being introduced to male Goonaroo in April.

Keeper Donald Gow, who has worked with koalas for the past eight years, said: “This is a significant achievement for the zoo.

“Alinga is proving to be an excellent mother – this is her first joey. She’s kept a very close eye on Yooranah when we’ve got hands on with him.”

Mr Gow revealed keepers had to place Yooranah on a koala soft toy from the gift shop during weigh-ins so he had something to cling on to.

“He is still very much attached to his mum and it’s only really in the past couple of days that he has emerged from the pouch. He’s still holding on to her body,” said Mr Gow.

The nine-month-old can expect to put on around ten grams a day and will eventually reach a weight of more than ten kilograms.

The zoo has another male koala, Yabbra, whose name is Aboriginal for “the fugitive” because he kept popping out of his mother’s pouch at a very early age.

The animals consistently prove one of the most popular exhibits in the zoo, but they do not always fit their cute and cuddly image.

Mr Gow said: “Male koalas vigorously defend their territory and have big claws which they use to defend their territory. They also have very loud, booming calls which sound quite strange coming from a koala.

“Koalas are very unique animals, they eat nothing else other than eucalyptus, and they do have quite complex needs so they did pose some breeding challenges.”

In their native Australia, koalas face a number of threats including a loss of habitat and forest fires, while around 4000 are hit by cars or attacked by dogs.

Koalas have a gestation period of only 30-35 days and the birth of the joey is thought to have taken place in mid-May.

Joeys are extremely underdeveloped when first born, measuring around the size of a jelly bean and are blind, with no ears and no fur. They spend a further six months growing inside their mother’s pouch.

Snacks & naps

Every day Edinburgh Zoo feeds its koalas five different species of eucalyptus.

As eucalyptus leaves provide little energy, koalas spend around 21 hours asleep. It is a myth that koalas become drugged from eating eucalyptus.

Edinburgh Zoo is the only collection in the UK to house koalas and is part of the European breeding programme.