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Four koalas die in about a month from pneumonia

Photos courtesy of Hirakawa Zoological Park
Koala Ai is seen in an undated photo.

KAGOSHIMA — Four koalas at a zoo in Kagoshima City died within a short period as a result of bacterial pneumonia.

In mid-September, a 1-year-old female koala in Hirakawa Zoological Park named Kanae developed a runny nose. She later recovered after being treated with antibiotics, but the infection spread to other koalas.

Taichi, a 10-year-old male, died on Sept. 29, followed by two females in October. Later, on Nov. 6, 1-year-old female Ai died.

The zoo has postponed the display to the public of a new male koala that arrived from Australia in September, and is taking steps to prevent the spread of infection.

All the deceased koalas were found to have contracted pneumonia from the same bacteria. One other koala was found to have symptoms, and is being carefully monitored in isolation.

The source of the bacteria is unknown because they are endemic. Some of the dead koalas were raising young, so fatigue may have contributed to the worsening of the disease, a zoo staff member said. The zoo had seen multiple deaths of koalas in the past, but never to this extent.

Even after the death of four koalas, the zoo holds 16, the largest number in Japan. A total of 55 were being kept at seven zoos across the country as of Nov. 22.

“Keeping so many koalas may have backfired,” said Akira Fukumori, the director of the zoo. “We take the four deaths seriously. We will consider this situation when breeding them in the future.”