Unusual But Interesting Diplomacy: Singapore Zoo Ready To House Four Koalas From Australia

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IN PHOTO: A zoo keeper offers eucalyptus leaves to a Koala joey named 'Boonda' in his enclosure at Wildlife World in Sydney June 28, 2011. The zoo plans to launch a fund raising program to help conserve the iconic Australian marsupial which faces threats from habitat reduction and disease. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Four koalas from Australia are getting ready to make Singapore their 'temporary' new home as part of SG50 celebration, as well as to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia-Singapore diplomatic relations. In an official announcement made for the bilateral initiative, the koalas will live in a purpose-built exhibit at Singapore Zoo for a period of six months.

Though the koalas will fly to Singapore next week, their official handover will happen only after completing the compulsory quarantine procedures. Besides, their renovated enclosure is expected to complete by May 20. 

For the koalas’ air journey to Singapore, a climate-controlled enclosure -- equipped with a tree and high quality leaves have been built. Jacqui Brumm, the Deputy General Manager of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary admitted preparing the creatures for the trip wasn’t easy, considering the koalas have never left the sanctuary since their birth. The sanctuary officials are anxious for the travel duration to Singapore, which is more than eight hours. The koalas don’t like humid weather, so the decision to send them off to Singapore was initially difficult.

The koalas are named Paddle, Pellita, Chan and Idalia. Eight-year-old Paddle is the oldest among them, who loves babysitting the joey's of her other housemates. While six-year-old Pellita is introvert and shy, five-year-old Chan is quite energetic and free-spirited. Though reserved, Pellita is very active and often seen running around. The youngest in the group, two-year-old Idalia is also very energetic and full of life.

The sanctuary officials have confirmed that their Singapore stay is a temporary arrangement, which would become permanent only after Singapore zoo builds a koala-friendly colony. Experts believe, it could take up to three years for Singapore zoo to plant eucalyptus trees for the koalas to eat and survive. Meanwhile, during their stay in Singapore, Australian airline Qantas will transport food, including fresh eucalyptus leaves twice a week.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, "Koala diplomacy is about a strong and enduring friendship between the two nations.”

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