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Illness claims baby koala at Taipei Zoo

TAIPEI --- A newborn koala has died despite two months of efforts to save its life, the Taipei Zoo said yesterday.

The 301-day-old female born to mother Coral died late Sunday, possibly of pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) caused by a blood disease, the zoo said in a press release.

Her death leaves the zoo with 13 koalas.

The unnamed joey was the second born to three-year-old Coral. Her first is now 2 years old, according to the zoo.

Veterinarians started to treat the newborn koala since she first fell while nursing on Dec. 18, an indication that joey's grip was not strong enough to hold onto her mother.

Test results showed that the joey was anemic, meaning she was incapable of producing a sufficient number of red blood cells. After falling twice more over the next several weeks, the joey was treated in a quarantine unit accompanied by her mother.

Her condition fluctuated over the subsequent several weeks, but the joey showed improvement earlier this month. Her weight by Feb. 8 had increased 757 grams, still far below what the zoo said would be a healthy weight of 1.1 kilograms.

She deteriorated rapidly over last week, when zookeepers noted a decrease in appetite and weight loss. Handlers began feeding the joey formula to supplement her mother's milk, the first time that artificial nursing has been used for koalas at the Taipei Zoo.

Despite the intensive efforts, the joey fell again while feeding from her mother on Sunday and died later the same day.

Zoo officials said they have consulted with experts in Australia and believe the cub's symptoms are consistent with retrovirus infection.

The zoo has dissected the joey and is testing samples in an effort to identify the cause of her illness.

Despite losing her child, Coral was doing well Tuesday.

The zoo said it will keep a close eye on the health of its other animals following the koala's death.

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This undated photo shows Joey the koala cub who passed away Sunday evening despite the best efforts of the Taipei Zoo veterinarian staff. The cause of death was attributed to the cub's anemic condition, which rendered her unable to produce ample amounts of red blood cells. According to Australian experts, Joey's conditions may have been caused by a retrovirus infection. (CNA)

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