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Ocean Park

Ocean Park’s male koala Sora put to sleep after infection takes its toll

Veterinarians recommended euthanasia to prevent unnecessary suffering for ailing marsupial

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 11:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 12:12pm

A koala at Ocean Park was put to sleep on Tuesday after an earlier respiratory infection left it in a weakened physical state – the second case involving the park’s marsupials in the past year and a half.

Sora, a five-year-old captive bred male koala, which had been living in the park’s Adventures in Australia exhibit since it arrived from Tennoji Zoo in Osaka, Japan, in July last year, was diagnosed with a serious respiratory infection that was eventually resolved in May this year.

But its body was weakened, and the infection led to irreversible gradual deterioration of vital functions, a spokesman from the theme park said.

Sora was given supportive and palliative care for several months, the park said, but the animal’s vital functions were observed to have reached a level incompatible with quality of life and satisfactory welfare on Monday, signifying that a humane endpoint had been reached.

Hairy future for Australia’s koalas

In animal experiments, a humane endpoint is the earliest indicator of pain or distress in the subject. Researchers can use these indicators to avoid or limit pain and distress in laboratory animals by taking actions such as humane killing, terminating a painful procedure or giving treatment to relieve pain and distress.

The park’s veterinarians recommended euthanasia for Sora to prevent unnecessary suffering. Tennoji Zoo and Cleland Wildlife Park in South Australia, where Ocean Park’s remaining two koalas are from, and Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department all agreed with the decision, the spokesman said.

Sora, a descendant of koalas that originated from the state of Victoria in Australia, was the second koala at Adventures in Australia to be put to sleep since the attraction was opened in March 2015.

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In March last year, three-year-old female southern koala Merinda was euthanised due to kidney failure brought on by oxalate nephrosis, an disease commonly seen in the species. This was recommended by a veterinarian from Cleland Wildlife Park, where Merinda was born.

The park’s two remaining southern koalas, male Dougie and female Yani, both came from Cleland Wildlife Park in October 2014.

Suzanne Gendron, Ocean Park’s executive director of zoological operations and conservation, said the park had been closely engaged with Tennoji Zoo and Cleland Wildlife Park to provide the best husbandry and veterinary treatment for Sora, and the park was saddened by the unfortunate outcome.

“Sora will be missed, and we thank him for being our animal ambassador to help us raise public awareness of the importance of protecting wild koalas and their natural habitats,” Gendron said.

Kazutoshi Takami, a veterinarian from Tennoji Zoo, was quoted as saying the zoo was sorry to see Sora’s passing, which came despite the efforts of the park’s animal care team.