Koala, wombat become ‘iso-buddies’ during coronavirus lockdown

While the rest of the world has been physically distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a wombat and a koala were forming an unlikely friendship.

The Australian Reptile Park closed its doors to the public amid the lockdown procedures. During the break, Elsa the koala and Hope the wombat met and looked to each other for support during the isolation, 5 New Online reports.

The park zookeepers would put the two together in the same enclosure, and eventually noticed how much they were helping each other out.

READ MORE: ‘Bear’ the dog tasked with finding koalas to rescue from Australia fires

“Elsa is just a bit over one year old now and it’s been an amazing experience watching the world love her as much as I do,” Australian Reptile Park curator, Hayley Shute, told the publication.

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“Hope is a little ray of sunshine and we just knew the two of them would enjoy getting to know each other.”

In a video shared to the park’s official Facebook page, the two animals can be seen gingerly touching noses and cozying up side-by-side, nuzzling into each other’s heads.

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“It makes for one cute video, that’s for sure,” Shute continued. “It’s a very special friendship these two have formed and I can’t wait to see it continue to blossom.”

The country, and its wildlife, are still in recovery mode from bushfires that ravaged the country from August 2019 to early this year.

At least 33,000 of the approximate 100,000 to 200,000 koalas across the nation are believed to have been killed during the fires, the Associated Press reported.

“Elsa and Hope are great ambassadors for Australian wildlife and our wildlife needs all the help it can get. Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate on the planet,” Shute said.

READ MORE: Thousands of koalas feared dead as wildfires in Australia destroy their habitat

“Our iconic koala is sadly experiencing a large decline in numbers due, in part, to the tragic bush fires we had earlier this year and they’re on the trajectory to be extinct in the wild by 2050.”

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The zoo recently introduced baby koala Ash to the world. It’s the first koala joey born at their park since the fires.

They recently shared an adorable video of one of the zookeepers greeting the little one, as she pokes her head out of her mother Rosie’s pouch.

“(She) is a sign of hope for the future of Australia’s native wildlife,” the Facebook post reads.

Ash was born in January, but zookeeper Dan Rumsey said it was only recently safe to check on her, given joeys tend to stay in their pouches for up to seven months.

“They’re ambassadors for koalas in the wild: the ones who truly suffered in the bushfires,” Rumsey told news.com.au. “Koalas are iconic … and even though ours are bred in captivity, we like to think we’re helping the fairly decimated population.

READ MORE: Several koalas rescued from devastating Australian bushfires now back in the wild

“Ash represents the start of what we’re hoping to be another successful breeding season,” he said.


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