Rare white koala born at zoo in Australia

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An Australian zoo has welcomed the birth of a rare white koala joey.

Australia Zoo, the famed wildlife park on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, has been in the midst of ‘joey season’ for the past few months, and has welcomed an extremely rare and pale youngster. 

The pale colouration is said to be down to a recessive gene rather than albinism, where colour is absent from all physical characteristics like skin, fur and eyes. 

Dr Rosie Booth, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital director said: “In veterinary science it is often referred to as the ‘silvering gene’ where animals are born with white or very pale fur and, just like baby teeth, they eventually shed their baby fur and the regular adult colouration comes through.”

Koalas are known to vary in colouration depending on their environment, with southern koalas being much darker and larger than those found in Queensland and New South Wales.

“In the wild animal kingdom, it’s actually quite unfortunate to have unusually light colouration as it makes animals stand out from their camouflage risking being spotted by potential predators.”

Koalas have predators such as eagles and owls and experts say it would be difficult for such a koala to survive if it lived in the wild.

Central Queensland University econologist Dr Alistair Melzer told the BBC he had not seen a white koala in more than 20 years of observing the animals in the wild.

He said: “It is something that would be selected against in the wild.

“The main issue would be a white animal like that would not have a lot of camouflage.”

The Joey is yet to be named and Queensland Zoo and Tourism Australia are calling for suggestions in a Facebook post which has been shared thousands of times.

Suggestions so far include Snow White, Stevie, Cola and Marshmallow.

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