Australia

Australian zoo welcomes rare white koala

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Media captionAustralia Zoo asks public to name white koala joey

Among a group of marsupials born at an Australian zoo in recent months, one has stood out.

The female koala, as yet unnamed, is a rare white joey.

According to Queensland's Australia Zoo, the koala's fair coat is not due to albinism but most likely caused by a recessive gene it inherited from its mother.

Experts say it would be difficult for such a koala to survive if it lived in the wild.

Image copyright Tourism Australia/Australia Zoo
Image caption The koala has delighted visitors and internet users

"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," said Dr Rosie Booth, the zoo's wildlife hospital director.

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

"It is something that would be selected against in the wild," he told the BBC, saying koalas had predators such as eagles and owls.

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Media captionKoalas 'facing extinction' in some Australian states

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

The zoo and Tourism Australia have asked for help with a name, in a Facebook post which has been shared thousands of times.

Suggestions so far include Snowflake, Diamond, Pearl and Djendaladi, meaning "white-haired" in the indigenous Noongar language.

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