By Jed Lanyon
Healesville Sanctuary has welcomed a tiny fuzzy-eared koala joey, just in time for spring and thanks to the help of Star Mail’s readers, the baby joey has been named Wirra.
Wirra, translates to ‘climb’ in Woiwurrung language. The idea for it came when sanctuary keepers consulted Wurundjeri elder Murrindindi, who came up with a shortlist of three names.
In a Star Mail Facebook poll, 53 per cent of respondents thought Wirra was the best name for the new joey. 32 per cent of voters opted for the name, Bardup, meaning ‘joy’ as the newborn koala would help bring joy in an otherwise dour year.
The remaining 15 per cent of the poll’s respondents voted for the name, Wurun, meaning ‘manna gum’ – one of the favoured species of eucalyptus that koalas found in Victoria eat.
Wirra has just started peeking out of mum’s pouch to take a look around its home at Healesville Sanctuary. At six months old, the joey is still too young for keepers to determine its sex.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll see the joey out and about exploring, and we’ll be able to get a good look,” Said sanctuary keeper Craig McQueen.
The joey will start exploring the world outside mum Emily’s pouch more and more, learning to climb and eat gum leaves.
“We’d expect to see the joey become more playful, starting to cling to mum’s back and eventually venturing out on its own,” said Mr McQueen.
This is the fourth joey for Emily, and she is described as an easy-going mum.
“Emily is a really relaxed mother, which makes it really easy for us to keep an eye on the joey as it’s developing. We can make sure they’re both doing well,” said Mr McQueen.
Emily and Wirra are the southern subspecies of koala, slightly larger and fluffier than their northern cousins. Southern koala populations were badly affected by bushfires in Victoria and New South Wales at the start of this year.
While Healesville Sanctuary is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers can animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals, including Healesville Sanctuary’s koalas, through the Zoos Victoria live stream cameras at: www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home