It was a first when six "koala ambassadors" arrived in the southern city of Guangzhou yesterday as the sleepy Australian marsupials have not been seen on the Chinese mainland before.
The donation of the furry and cuddly bears is a celebratory gift marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Australian diplomatic relations.
The koalas, three female and three male, were gifted by the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia but they'll feel right at home in their lovely new habitat at Xiangjiang Safari Park. They animals are aged between two and four years.
According to Dong Guixin, general manager of the park, the donation is part of a global koala protection plan agreed upon by Australia and China. The safari park has been chosen by the Australian Government after visits and evaluations by their experts.
"The park is an ideal habitat for the lovely koalas in terms of the climate, fodder supply and technical support," he said. "We are capable of taking good care of them."
Dong said the park had designated 13.3 hectares of land for the koalas and had about 40,000 eucalyptus trees the leaves of which the koalas live on.
He said that the koalas were in their prime so the safari park should produce its own cubs in the next few years. The park will become China's koala gene bank and propagation base.
According to Kelli-Ann Kerin, consul of the Australian Consulate-General Guangzhou, the koalas will easily acclimatize to the environment in Guangzhou as the city shares a climate similar to Queensland.
She said she believed that the koalas will get on well thanks to the good preparations made by the park and technical support and training from Australian experts.
The koalas were handpicked from 56 at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and they were quarantined for a month before being flown over on a chartered aircraft.
The koalas will be isolated for over one month in Guangzhou for acclimatization to the environment and will meet the public in late June.
(China.org.cn, China Daily April 28, 2006)