Meet the First Baby Koala Born in Australian Wildlife Park Since Devastating Wildfires

Koala joey Ash makes her first appearance from her mother's pouch. Australian Reptile Park/Facebook

A wildlife park in Australia is offering a tiny, fluffy bundle of good news. Keepers announced the birth of their first baby koala since bushfires devastated the continent. The Australian Reptile Park near Sydney, New South Wales, posted a video of the baby koala, known as a joey. Keepers named her Ash.

"We have a very special announcement... Our very first koala of the season has popped out of Mums pouch to say hello!" the park posted. They called her "a sign of hope for the future of Australia’s native wildlife."

The wildlife park reopened May 1 after closing down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the baby koala's birth, she has been a massive hit online, and has started popping out more frequently to greet her fans. Her mom, Rosie, looks on quietly as the little joey surveys her new world.

Bushfires began erupting across eastern and western Australia in October, ravaging many parts of Australia. By the time they were contained in February, the fires had destroyed more than 2,400 homes and about 13.3 million acres (5.4 million hectacres) just in the eastern state of New South Wales, the country's most populous state.

There were many heartbreaking stories and videos from the fires — including images of the many animals that were affected. Koalas were especially hard hit. More than 30 koalas were rescued from fires and brought to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in New South Wales. After raising more than $7.8 million initially to install drinking stations in burned-out areas across country, the hospital now plans to start a koala breeding program with all the extra funds.

Koalas are endemic to Australia, meaning that's the only place where the marsupials exist in the wild. Australia was once home to millions of koalas, but the Australian Koala Foundation says koalas are now "functionally extinct." The group estimates there are no more than 80,000 koalas left in the wild in Australia.

The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species lists koalas as "vulnerable" with decreasing numbers. The WWF has warned that koalas could be extinct in New South Wales by 2050.

But at least there's a little good news at the wildlife park with newborn Ash.