Australian zoo asks for help naming rare white koala
The Australia Zoo in Queensland has welcomed 12 baby koalas this breeding season. The little joeys spent several months inside their mothers’ pouches. Now they are starting to make their first public appearances. This is according to Australia's ABC News.
One of the new babies surprised zoo officials. She came out from the pouch with snowy, white fur. That is a rarity for the fluffy marsupials. Now, the zoo is asking the public to help name this very special koala.
The female joey is not an albino. Albino koalas sport pink eyes and noses. But this pale fuzzball has dark features. The joey likely has a maternal recessive gene that causes light-colored fur. That's according to the BBC. Her mother is named Tia. She has previously given birth to other babies covered with pale-colored fuzz. But none have been as white as the new joey. That's according to Jessica Wilkinson on the official Australia tourism website.
"In veterinary science it is often referred to as the 'silvering gene.' This is when animals are born with white or very pale fur,” says Rosie Booth. She is the zoo's wildlife hospital director, according to the BBC. “Just like baby teeth, they eventually shed their baby fur. Then the regular adult coloration comes through.”
Temporary though it may be, white fur is a downside to koalas in the wild. The pearly down makes the critters more visible to predators. But this isn't a cause for concern for the new joey. She is currently snuggled up with her mother in the “Mum and Bubs” branch of the Australia Zoo.
The little one does not have a name yet, so the zoo is looking to the public for help. A call for names on the zoo’s Facebook page has resulted in more than 1,000 responses. Commenters suggested monikers like Tofu and Pearl. They also suggested Daenerys (Mother of Dragons in the Game of Thrones) and Elsa (the princess turned queen in Frozen).
The new joey can be viewed with other baby koalas and their mothers in a leafy enclosure. Visitors won’t be able to get close to the babies, but Wilkinson of Tourism Australia notes that “encounters are available at Australia Zoo with mature koalas where you can cuddle or pat them.”
Koala cuddles? Be right back, just booking a flight to Australia.