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Ocean Park Unveils Koala Exhibit Plans
Hong Kong's Ocean Park has unveiled plans for the State's first and only native Australian koala exhibit.
Ocean Park Chairman Dr. Allan Zeman was joined by South Australian Premier Mike Rann and ANZ Bank's Gilles Planté for the unveiling of the design concept of the Park's planned Koala Exhibit.
The exhibit, which will be the home of eight koalas gifted by the Government of South Australia, will open with the arrival of four of the Australia icons in 2014, followed by another four in 2015.
The tree-living marsupials will perform dual roles as ambassadors for conservation and their native Australia as the Koala Exhibit will feature interpretive displays, interactive presentations and narrations on topics ranging from the natural history and conservation status of koalas to Australia's flora and fauna, geography, culture and more.
Dr. Zeman explained that "we will be renovating the existing Ha Ha Factory building to create an immersive encounter with koalas and their native Australia. Sponsored by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), the Koala Exhibit will provide the koalas a comfortable home as we are working closely with the Government of South Australia and Cleland Wildlife Park to create an exhibit and environment that simulates their natural habitat.
"Guests will enjoy a walkthrough exploration of the natural and cultural heritage of Australia, with a special focus on South Australia, before reaching the koala enclosure. There, they will be able to observe our furry ambassadors from a close distance, while surrounded by the aroma of eucalyptus leaves."
Premier Rann added "I have heard so many good things about Ocean Park and I have been looking forward to coming back to Hong Kong to see for myself. I am now even more confident that the koalas will find in Ocean Park a nurturing home.
"The eventual transfer, starting in 2014, will be a carefully planned and staged relocation of koalas bred at Adelaide's premium wildlife park, Cleland Conservation Park, in the Adelaide Hills. The extended period ahead of the relocation gives Ocean Park the time to design and build a world-class koala compound and also allows time to grow some of the eucalyptus species that koalas eat."
Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director, Zoological Operations and Education of Ocean Park, explained that "we have engaged a professional and reliable institution to establish a eucalyptus plantation to ensure a stable, high-quality supply for the koalas.
"Working with Australian experts, we have identified eucalyptus species that meet the koalas' taste and can be grown in southern China. 5,600 trees will mature in about three years, in time for the arrival for the first four koalas.
"The Government of South Australia has also generously offered to provide over six months of training to our staff on general husbandry, animal handling, medical care, animal breeding and nursing of young koalas and joeys. We look forward to keeping our koalas happy and healthy as they are honoured representatives of Australia. Not only is it important for Australians to cherish their native trees as homes for their animals, but closer to home, we too must save forests and wild habitats in order to preserve our own unique wildlife."
As eucalyptus is not native to southern China, a 1.3-hectare plantation is being established in Guangzhou to provide for the needs of the koalas. In accordance with the Australian government's export permit requirement, 1,000 eucalyptus trees will be planted for each koala to secure a sustainable browse supply. The entire plantation will eventually house 8,000 eucalyptus trees and be equipped with an advanced irrigation system to supply water to the trees and prevent fires. A farm with 250 trees will also be set up at The Summit area in Ocean Park for contingent requirements.
Dr. Zeman concluded, "we are honoured and grateful to be entrusted by the Government of South Australia with such loveable and iconic animals from Australia.
"We also thank the Government of Hong Kong and ANZ for its ongoing support and encouragement.
"This collaboration is a celebration not only of the mutually beneficial ties between Hong Kong and South Australia, but also our shared commitment to conservation. When our Koala Exhibit opens, it will further enrich the diversity of Ocean Park's education and conservation platform, enabling our guests to learn about these wonderful furry friends and the need to protect wild habitats. This also strengthens Ocean Park's commitment in connecting people with nature, and offering our guests experiences that blend entertainment with education and conservation."
Construction of the Koala Exhibition is expected to begin late next year.
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