Queensland’s Australia Zoo welcomed its first white koala joey earlier this week. The female’s pale fur is the result of a recessive gene believed to be passed down from her mother, Tia. Her dark eyes and skin mean she isn’t albino, which is actually more common, says Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital director Dr Rosie Booth.
There is a chance the joey may lose her white fur as she ages, however. “In veterinary science it’s often referred to as the ‘silvering gene’, where animals are born with white or very pale fur [and] eventually shed their baby fur, [then] the regular adult colouration comes through,” Dr Booth explains. She goes on to mention that koala’s fur colour often varies according to their environment, with koalas in northern states being generally smaller and paler than those in the south.
To celebrate the rare birth, Australia Zoo and Tourism Australia are calling on the public to choose a name. Thousands have responded to Tourism Australia’s Facebook post, with suggestions ranging from “Binji, meaning mate or buddy,” to “Stevie….after Steve Irwin who was also a blond and everyone loved.”
The white joey is one of 12 koalas born at Australia Zoo this season.