Century-Old Koala Sanctuary Puts End to Cuddling

Australia's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary says move comes at visitors' request
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2024 5:30 PM CDT
Century-Old Koala Sanctuary Puts End to Cuddling
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Maridav)

For nearly 100 years, Australia's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has set out to protect koalas. It opened in 1927 in response to the practice of culling the animals for their fur at the time—and it's now putting an end to a practice it has long espoused: koala cuddling. The BBC reports the Brisbane sanctuary will no longer offer "koala hold experiences," a move made in response to "increasingly strong visitor feedback" against the cuddling and in support of more educational offerings and "close-up" experiences that don't involve touching them. The sanctuary has in the past hosted big names like Taylor Swift, Roger Federer, and Vladimir Putin, who've posed with the creatures in their arms.

The Washington Post explains that in the wild, koalas are solitary creatures who spend most of their time asleep in order to stockpile energy for digesting the tough eucalyptus leaves they subsist on. As such, critics say subjecting them to cuddles is cruel and stressful. While some Australian states have long banned the practice, Queensland, where Lone Pine is located, isn't one of them and says it doesn't intend to change that stance.

It does, however, have some rules in place—among them, that koalas can only be cuddled by tourists for a max of 30 minutes a day and 180 minutes per week. A rep for World Animal Protection, which has been pushing Queensland to change its mind, notes koala cuddling isn't what you might expect in one way: Their fur is actually scratchy, not soft. (More koala stories.)

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