May 20, 2015 – Four koalas were officially unveiled at Singapore Zoo on Wednesday (May 20), with their six-month loan to symbolise the strong and enduring friendship between Singapore and Australia.
The four marsupials are on display in their specially-built enclosure for the next six months as part of SG50, Singapore’s Jubilee year celebrations, as well as to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between Australia and Singapore.
The “housewarming party” for Singapore Zoo’s Koalamania was launched by Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop.
“Singaporeans have been excited over the news ever since it broke. Many are looking forward to spending time with them,” Mr Shanmugam said. “Australia’s loan of its national icon to us underscores the very strong bonds we have between our two countries. This loan comes at a very special time for us as we celebrate SG50.”
Mr Shanmugam also joked about the name of one the koalas, Chan, pronounced like the first syllable in “Chantelle”. “I’m feeling a little jealous because not only has she taken my name, but she’s cuter than me,” he said.
“I agree, I think that’s actually short for Shanmugam and perhaps they all need to have a local Singapore name… so they have a Singaporean identity as well,” added Ms Bishop.
“The quartet is a precious gift from Australia to Singapore,” said Wildlife Reserves Singapore chairman Claire Chiang, in her speech at the official launch of the koala exhibit. “Most certainly, the four koalas are strong symbols of the longstanding friendship between our two countries.”
“Their stay in Singapore Zoo presents an excellent opportunity for visitors to have a peek at these fascinating animals that stand among the biggest icons of endemic Australian wildlife,” she added.
Ms Chiang announced that as “proud custodians” of the koalas, the Singapore Zoo has planned a month-long celebration in honour of the marsupials, named “Koalamania!” The celebrations include aboriginal dance performances, mascot meet and greet sessions and Australian arts and crafts stations.