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There some great news for koala-lovers coming out of Australia. The devastating Australian bushfires, which raged in New South Wales until March, killed a large number of animals and destroyed the habitat of millions of species. The koala, a national symbol of Australia, was particularly hard hit. But now that breeding season has returned, the appearance of a joey is giving hope that these animals will be able to thrive once again.
The Australian Reptile Park in Somersby made everyone's day when they announced that their first koala joey since the bushfires made an appearance at the park. Employees at the park named her Ash and she was about 5 months old when she first popped out of her mom Rosie's pouch. This is typical behavior for joeys, which crawl into their mother's pouch immediately after birth and remain there for about 6 months. Ash's presence at the park is a beacon of light and makes the park hopeful that this koala breeding season will be fruitful.
Ash's birth is important when one considers the state of Australia's koalas just a few months ago. Original reports during the fires said that the beautiful creatures were functionally extinct, meaning enough koalas wouldn't survive to repopulate the species in a significant way. That report has been disputed by some critics, though the International Fund for Animal Welfare reported in February that about 12% of the NSW koala population was killed in the fires. Sadly, they also found that over the last three generations two-thirds of the population was lost to drought, bushfires, and man-made causes.
The survival of Ash is incredible considering the fact that joeys are born without hair and ears and are blind. They rely completely on their mothers until they develop enough to stand on their own and can emerge from the pouch. Now, she'll stick close to her mom until next year when a new joey will take her place.
Ash's appearance also happened just in time for the park to open its doors to the public. After being closed for several months due to COVID-19 measures, the Australian Reptile Park reopened on June 1, 2020, so you can go by and see Ash for yourself.