You Can No Longer Cuddle a Koala at Brisbane's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary — But a New Close-Up Experience Is Coming

Patron feedback has indicated that visitors are "wishing to spend longer with the sanctuary's koalas and their passionate wildlife care team, without necessarily holding them".
Sarah Ward
Published on July 03, 2024

Among Brisbane's must-do experiences for locals and attractions for tourists, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of the most famous. While the Fig Tree Pocket wildlife facility that dates back to 1927 isn't just home to koalas, but also fellow wildlife such as owls, kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, turtles, birds of prey and snakes, it's long been known as the spot in the Sunshine State capital to cuddle a koala. Since Monday, July 1, that's no longer the case, however. The site has announced that it has ended its koala holds "in response to increasingly strong visitor feedback", and will replace it with a new koala close-up experience from Sunday, September 1, 2024.

"To address increasing public demand and a concerted effort to embrace more-immersive and educational experiences, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary will be ceasing koala hold experiences," said the site in a statement. Visitor feedback indicated that folks are "wishing to spend longer with the sanctuary's koalas and their passionate wildlife care team, without necessarily holding them," the announcement continued.

"We love that there is a shift among both local and international guests to experience Australian wildlife up close, but not necessarily personal, just doing what they do best — eating, sleeping and relaxing within their own space," said Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary's General Manager Lyndon Discombe in the same statement.

"We have absolutely seen an increase in demand for educational programs and guided experiences, focusing on the ability to witness the natural behaviours of koalas. Once you see them up close and in their wonderful natural state, we hope our guests love and respect them even more."

"With the development of koala close-up and the expansion of the sanctuary's existing daily koala encounters (koala moments), Lone Pine will be offering guests increased opportunity to be in the presence of our adorable marsupials and learn about their behaviours, ecology and daily care, as well their unique quirks and personalities."

Christopher Neugebauer via Flickr

When spring arrives, the new koala close-up give patrons extra time in the koalas' presence, with each session running for 15 minutes for groups of up six people. It does include feeling a koala's fur, but not holding it or getting a complementary photo with it.

Lone Pine's koala moments experience covers touching a koala, while the 60-minute koala discovery tour gets you spending one-on-one time with a koala, entering the koala exhibit and seeing behind the scenes at the leaf-sorting area. Still on the adorable marsupials, the venue's platinum tour also weaves in the koala moments experience.

Christopher Neugebauer via Flickr

The latest change to the Brisbane locale comes after the wildlife sanctuary expanded in 2023 with a new nocturnal precinct. At the night-focused addition, visitors can see koalas, rufus bettons, tree kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, bare-nosed wombats, potoroos, pademelons, bandicoots, bettongs, southern hairy-nosed wombats and echidnas after dark while taking a one-kilometre stroll through a eucalypt planation.

"It's an Australian native animal treasure hunt, with the prize being able to see these amazing creatures up close and personal," said Frank Mikula, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Curator, when the nocturnal precinct opened.

Patrons get peering using portable thermal imaging cameras, with the experience designed around not disrupting the critters, and instead walking across a new elevated boardwalk that has been custom-designed for the site.

Andrew Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary at 708 Jesmond Road, Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane stopped offering koala holds on Monday, July 1, 2024, and will start its new koala close-ups from Sunday, September 1, 2024. Head to the venue's website for more information and bookings.

Top image: Christopher Neugebauer via Flickr.

Published on July 03, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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