Singapore is set to become the new home to four koalas from Australia as part of celebrations for SG50, and the 50th anniversary of Australia-Singapore diplomatic relations.
The official announcement was made in Brisbane on Thursday (Apr 9) for the bilateral initiative that will see the koalas live in a purpose-built exhibit at Singapore Zoo for six months.
Next week, the koalas will fly to Singapore, but the official handover will take place on May 20, after the animals complete the necessary quarantine procedures and when their renovated enclosure is complete. The koalas have already been held in quarantine for several months at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.
Although officials confirmed the koalas are just on loan at this time, the arrangement will become permanent once Singapore Zoo is able to support its own koala colony.
Given koalas' special dietary requirement of native eucalyptus, mostly leaves, the Australian airline Qantas will transport fresh food supplies twice per week for the duration of the loan.
Visitors to the zoo should not expect high activity from the marsupials; due to their diet, they normally sleep for up to 20 hours per day.
The initiative is seen as a gesture of goodwill ahead of final negotiations to formalise the two nations' Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, called Project 2025, which was announced in August last year. It provides a 10-year framework for closer economic ties, as well as in defence, foreign affairs and people-to-people fields.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to visit Singapore later this year to sign a joint declaration with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to mark the 50 years of relations. Mr Abbott was also recently in Singapore to attend the funeral service for its founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Currently, Singapore also has a 10-year loan arrangement for two pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, received from China to mark 20 years of Sino-Singapore relations. The pair are on display at the River Safari, along with two Japanese raccoon dogs on exchange from the Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido.