Head koala keeper Kirsten Latham checks on the health of the new koala joeys.
Head koala keeper Kirsten Latham checks on the health of the new koala joeys. Warren Lynam

Australia Zoo's newest members wow crowds

AUSTRALIA Zoo has welcomed its newest, and most cuddly, arrivals.

Eight koala joeys have started making their way out of their mothers' pouches to wow crowds at the zoo.

The first joeys of the season have been welcomed into the zoo's already booming population of 63 koalas.

"We do have a large population here at the zoo, so that enables us to have a number of koalas breeding each year," zoo koala department head Kirsten Latham said.

The joeys are about eight months old.

"They're keeping us on our toes," Ms Latham said.

Just one of the joeys has a name. Maple has been enjoying life outside of the pouch and is in the good hands of her mum, Willow.

Australia Zoo Head Koala Keeper Kirsten Latham checks on the health of the new koala joeys born at the Beerwah zoo recently.Gumnut with her new born joey.
Head koala keeper Kirsten Latham checks on the health Maple and the other joeys. Warren Lynam

A koala's average birth weight is just half a gram, and they resemble a kidney bean in shape and size. After 22 weeks the koalas open their eyes, and by 24 weeks they are fully independent.

Today zookeepers weighed three joeys to ensure they were developing at a healthy rate.

"When they're in the pouch the mums do a fantastic job, so most of our care is aimed towards the mums, providing them with the right food and a safe environment," Ms Latham said.

"They really do take care of the raising of the young by themselves.

"Once they're at this age they're out of the pouch. It's important to get a good weight on them, a solid weight, just to make sure they are progressing how we would like them to be."

So far the joeys have been growing about 20-30g a day.

Australia Zoo Head Koala Keeper Kirsten Latham checks on the health of the new koala joeys born at the Beerwah zoo recently.Maple gets a lift from her mum willow while being weighed.
Maple gets a ride from her mum, Willow, while she's weighed. Warren Lynam

The zoo's breeding program has helped grow southeast Queensland population numbers that have been impacted by habitat loss and disease.

"Koalas in the wild have had such a rocky history, from culling going back many years and now habitat destruction," she said.

"Captive breeding programs such as we run here at the zoo is fantastic as far as building numbers and making sure that they're here for generations to come."

Visitors are able to meet and have a cuddle with a select few of the koalas and get a glimpse of the babies in the enclosure.

"One of the first things you see as you come into the zoo is these babies having a play," Ms Latham said.