By Jasmine Kazlauskas
This un-bear-ably cute baby koala named after Disney’s Queen Elsa is melting frozen hearts across the world – and is now thriving after a rough start in life.
While you wouldn’t know it by looking at her now, but adorable little Elsa, now seven months, had a very scary start to life after her mum Irene, three, developed severe mastitis and was unable to feed her.
Without getting the milk she desperately needed, the koala joey had no chance of survival – so keepers at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, New South Wales, Australia, had to intervene to save Elsa’s life.
After successfully carrying out the emergency rescue last month [30 SEP], Elsa’s mum Irene, who was born at the park, is currently in veterinary care and is expected to make a full recovery – while baby Elsa is loving life with her human mum until the pair can be reunite.
Resident ‘Koala Whisperer’ Hayley Shute, who is the curator of the Australian Reptile Park, now cares for baby Elsa round-the-clock and lovingly gives the joey seven bottles of a special milk formula a day.
She said: “Elsa is doing really well. Koala joeys require 24 hours of care, supervision and seven bottles of a special milk formula a day.
“I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had a proper night’s sleep. They’re nocturnal, so just when I’m ready to go to bed, she wants to climb out of her pouch and play with me.
“It’s like having a newborn all over again.
“Elsa will feed from the bottle from the next 4-6 months until she becomes independent enough to eat eucalyptus leaves.
“Once she is strong enough, she will be reunited with her mum Irene and be introduced to our koala family here at the Australian Reptile Park.”
The mum-of-three said her daughters had decided on the name Elsa after returning from a family holiday to Disneyworld – adding that the name is ‘very fitting’ as the joey loves warm hugs and pops her head out of her pouch each time Hayley’s girls watch ‘Frozen’.
Keeper Hayley is no stranger to nursing koala joeys, but said it is quite the challenge juggling the duties between her human and fur babies.
She said: “We decided on the name Elsa because we had just gotten back from Disneyworld and I asked my daughters what we should call the koala.
“Of course, the first name that came out of their mouth was Elsa.
“It’s very fitting. Elsa is a really chilled out koala, which is good for me.”
Elsa is a part of this year’s breeding of seven koala joeys at the Australian Reptile Park.
The park warns that at the current rate of decline, koalas are on track to become completely extinct by 2050 – as numbers have plummeted by a third in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010 due to habitat destruction, deforestation, fragmentation, cars and dogs.