Koalas find their Valentine at Potoroo Palace

This story was featured in the Merimbula News Weekly on February 11th 2016. Photo and article courtesy of Albert McKnight

Potoroo Palace was the site for an early Valentine’s Day romance, as the animal sanctuary is hoping that a pair of koalas will breed.

Recently, staff at the palace introduced long-time female resident Sapphire to newcomer Jimmy, and sparks began to fly.

When they first met the two began fighting and screaming leaving a lot of fur around their enclosure, but the palace’s animal welfare supervisor John Marsh said this was just part of their courtship.

Even before they came together Sapphire had eyes for Jimmy, as despite hating getting wet she would sit out in the rain to watch him in his pen.

On Wednesday, February 10, Mr Marsh said it was possible Sapphire was already pregnant, so if that was the case there could be a new baby koala at the palace by August or September.

Sapphire was born at Potoroo Palace, Yellow Pinch, five years ago.

Her mother was an 18-year-old called Susie and her father a rescue koala called Blinky – “don’t blame us for the name” –both who have since died.

When Sapphire was born a raffle was run with first prize being her naming rights and Mr Marsh said it was likely the palace would do the same thing when the new baby was born.

While she might treat Jimmy roughly, to humans she is curious and friendly – she liked to be picked up and held by staff.

Mr Marsh said staff do not hold Sapphire now as they are trying to wean her off such an action, but the cuddles started because the marsupial wanted to be reassured after her mother died –she liked to be held on the left side of a person’s body so she could feel their heartbeat.

Two-year-old Jimmy was found beside a road in the Monaro in a very weak condition and was taken to a vet in Cooma.

Mr Marsh said when a wild animal is rescued and rehabilitated it has to be known exactly where they were found for them to be released again.

As the motorists who found Jimmy dropped him at the vet and left, it was unknown where exactly he was found so he cannot be released and will stay at Potoroo Palace.

A major issue with breeding captive koalas is the lack of genetic diversity, Mr Marsh said.

Potoroo Palace was extremely excited, because Sapphire’s father was a wild animal as were both of Jimmy’s parents so that meant their offspring will be highly sought-after by other breeders.

He said it is hoped to swap the baby with a young female to continue breeding koalas.

“Once we put it out there that we’ve got these genetics, we’ll have people knocking on our door looking to swap koalas,” he said.

A koala’s gestation period is 36 days, then the jellybean-sized baby enters its mother’s pouch for six months before it emerges onto its mother’s back.