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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Rare white koala born at Australian zoo

Handlers at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast say the pale animal born in January owes its white fur to a recessive gene inherited from its mother

The rare white baby koala born at the Australia Zoo in Queensland clings to her mother, Tia on August 22, 2017. The joey's light coloration is caused by a recessive gene carried by her mother. past.  The joey has yet to be named.  Photo: Australia Zoo / AFP
The rare white baby koala born at the Australia Zoo in Queensland clings to her mother, Tia on August 22, 2017. The joey's light coloration is caused by a recessive gene carried by her mother. past. The joey has yet to be named. Photo: Australia Zoo / AFP

A koala at an Australian zoo has given birth to a rare white baby, staff announced on Tuesday.

Handlers at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast say the pale joey — as young koalas are known — born in January owes its white fur to a recessive gene inherited from mother Tia. She has given birth to light-coloured joeys in the past.

"In veterinary science it's 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 the zoo's wildlife hospital director Rosie Booth.

Koala fur differs in colour — from light grey to brown — depending on their environment. Animals in the south of Australia tend to have thicker and darker fur than those in the north.

But a white koala is incredibly rare, Ms Booth said, and "quite unfortunate" if born in the wild, since it is more visible to predators.

The much-loved koala has been under increasing threat across Australia in recent decades, particularly from habitat loss, disease, dog attacks and bushfires.

The joey has yet to be named and Tourism Australia is set to encourage suggestions.