AFKLM Cargo welcomes the Netherlands’ first and only Koalas

Who would have thought it? Until a couple of weeks ago, no Koala had ever set foot on Dutch soil… And now, three Koalas are settling down in their new habitat at the Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, preparing to delight zoo visitors from 25APR24, onwards. A special, custom-built enclosure called ‘Koalia’ has been erected there, and the Koalas are part of an international program dedicated to protecting their species. Over the past few years, Koala numbers have rapidly declined (particularly following the devastating fires of 2019/2020), leading to the Australian government classifying them as ‘endangered’. They are otherwise listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List and are the only ones of their species with an estimated 300,000 mature animals in the wild.

While the real ones settle into ‘Koalia’, AFKLM Cargo celebrate a project well done. Image: AFKLMP Cargo

As with every animal transport, a great deal of preparation goes into ensuring that their journey is smooth and with minimum stress to the animals. Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is well-acquainted with animal-friendly transportation and boasts the KLM Animal Hotel at its Schiphol hub, complete with trained animal stewards who look after the animals before, throughout and after their journey. This was not the first collaboration with Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands. Back in 2017, KLM Cargo carried giant pandas all the way from China to the zoo in the Netherlands.

This time, in addition to the airline’s own expert staff, it was an animal caretaker from Ouwehands Zoo who left for the Californian San Diego Zoo on 04APR24, to collect the koalas. She spent a number of days there, training with their caregivers, before bringing the three koalas back with her on a KLM aircraft, from Los Angeles. That flight landed at 08:45 on 19APR24, and the Koalas were immediately taken from the aircraft cargo hold to the KLM Animal Hotel. Here, they were seen by a vet and customs cleared before carrying on to the final leg of their journey – from Amsterdam to their new home at the Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen.

Meanwhile, over at Lufthansa Cargo last week, it was a couple of pygmy hippos who were the special guests on board of an A321F freighter, flying from Madrid (Seville Zoo) to Frankfurt and on to Mumbai, India. Whoever claimed that cargo is boring?

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