Hayley Shute, Life Sciences Manager at the Australian Reptile Park, along with her own family, raised Albert the koala from birth.

The tiniest koala joey ever hand-raised at an Australian Zoo has bid farewell to his surrogate family.

Since his rescue in September 2023, the tiny joey has woven himself into the lives of the Shute family, making today a bittersweet occasion.

With koalas predicted to face extinction by 2050, the park is actively breeding koalas to bolster population numbers and educating visitors about the species.

The Australian Reptile Park remains at the forefront of koala conservation, continually striving to raise awareness of the challenges these cherished animals face and promoting efforts to preserve them.

This is not the first time Shute has been pivotal in koala conservation. In 2019, she hand-raised Elsa, Albert’ s mother, after Elsa’ s own mother, Irene, became ill and needed urgent care. Elsa grew up as a beloved part of the Shute family, just like Albert.

Shute reflected, "Raising a koala is challenging. It requires constant time, love, and dedication to ensure their development, but the rewards are immense. Once mature, Albert will play a vital role in our breeding program aimed at conserving this iconic species.

Known affectionately as the "koala whisperer", she assumed full-time care of Albert, balancing this with her duties as a mother to three children.

At the time of his rescue, Albert weighed just 280 grams, making him the smallest koala joey ever raised by Shute.

Albert's journey began when his biological mother, Elsa, became sick last year.

Reflecting on the eight months spent nurturing Albert, Shute shared, "There were times when his survival seemed uncertain, but he has consistently overcome the odds and is now thriving!"

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