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A great story by Rachel Fountain and photo by Tamara Kemp of The Morning Bulletin Tuesday 14th August 2007

Rockhampton Botanical Gardens Zoo

Proudly announce the arrival of Cara-Mini?

“Photograph supplied courtesy of The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton"

By Rachel Fountain

HOW many koalas can you see in this picture?

It's not a trick question, proud mum Caramello (pictured above) has given birth to the first baby koala born at Rockhampton Zoo for several years.

Born just one month ago, her baby has fur now and has been spotted poking its head out of the pouch once so far.

Parks and Recreation Director Tom Wyatt said yesterday the birth was exciting because it held implications for the
repopulation of the Central Queensland koala.

"Our program is fine tuning the technique of breeding these animals in captivity," Mr Wyatt said.

He said the long term goal was a breed and release program to repopulate the Berserkers, in which the local koala population had dropped dramatically.

The drought had impacted severely on the region, depleting the nutrients found in eucalyptus leaves.

Mr Wyatt said the local koala population had been significantly affected by drought.

"We have eucalyptus forest being developed and are researching with CQU... to see if we can increase the nutrients in the leaf," he said.

Mr Wyatt said "at this stage", the breeding program was all natural.

"We think we can create conditions similar to what they are in the wild," he said.

"It'll be an ongoing project for many years because we're still fine tuning what keeps them really happy here in captivity.

"I've got a gut feeling; if we can improve the nutrient value of the leaf maybe the breeding will become easier."

Mr Wyatt said the as yet unnamed baby marsupial mammal would remain in the pouch for another three months before it could fend for itself.

The new addition takes koala numbers at the zoo to five.