23 September 2023

Take a walk on the wild side when a nature reserve opens its doors after hiatus

| Claire Sams
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woman at nature reserve

Two joeys under the care of Dr Sarah May are waiting for you to give them a name. Photo: Laura Liu.

After a multi-year hiatus, a Canberra nature reserve is opening its doors so the public can see animals of all kinds, including two baby koalas.

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Threatened Species program manager Dr Sarah May said two as-yet-unnamed joeys – and the rest of the koala family – were among the animals under the care of the staff and volunteers at Tidbinbilla.

“There’s three adults here [in this enclosure] and they’re all so different,” Dr May said.

“Arthur is fantastic because he’s just this brazen male and just does his thing.

“Yellow doesn’t tend to be the maternal one and often we have Scully with two joeys – so it’s interesting to see that this time, Scully’s baby has gone to join Yellow and his cousin.”

The two female koalas are about 10 years old and came to Canberra via Victoria, while Arthur is aged four or five.

“We typically have joeys born every year, and we’ve currently got two tiny ones with us that are just emerging from their mothers’ pouches,” Dr May said.

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The public will have the chance to see the joeys when the reserve’s open day returns on Sunday (24 September) from 10 am to 2 pm.

“We typically had one every year, but since COVID, there has been a big hiatus in our open days,” Dr May said.

“The weather is going to be beautiful this weekend, and there’ll be food, music and a show-and-tell of what we do.

“It just feels like we’re resuming normality again and really starting to get back to where we left off before this big hiatus because of bushfires and floods and things that have happened since.”

Another element of the festivities is a naming competition for the joeys.

koala in a tree

Arthur, Yellow and Scully have been joined in their enclosure by two joeys. Photo: Laura Liu.

“The names for the animals come from different sources, and this year we’ve asked our volunteers to submit names,” Dr May said.

“From those names, we’ve pulled 10 out of a hat that people could choose from.”

While the voting will take place on the open day, Region has had a sneak peek of the list of names: Snugglepot, Cuddlepie, Jelly, Bindi, Gizmo, Blinky, Bee, Harley, Whittle and Yuka.

Dr May said now that the Tidbinbilla team had two new joeys to look after, the breeding program was, in essence, on hold.

“The joeys come naturally, and the koalas haven’t failed us yet,” she said.

“We typically get babies around February, and then in August they’ll start emerging from the pouch.”

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Dr May said that while more joeys were not expected to arrive in the short term, there were big plans for koalas in the Territory.

“The ACT Government is working towards getting them back into the wild, where they belong,” she said.

“They are hoping that Tidbinbilla will have a huge role to play in that, in being able to breed koalas that are genetically viable and appropriate for release here.

“That’s something that’s on the drawing board – there’s a long way to go yet, but we’re feeling very excited about those possibilities.”

Dr May said Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve was considering several options.

“We are thinking about transitioning to a breed-for-release program to assist in the recovery of kolas in the ACT,” she said.

“We’ve got the infrastructure and we’re very well positioned regionally to do that.”

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s open day is this Sunday (24 September) from 10 am to 2 pm.

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