Singapore will receive four koalas from Australia as part of celebrations for SG50 and the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Australia diplomatic relations.

The official announcement was made in Brisbane today. The koalas will live in a purpose-built exhibit at Singapore Zoo temporarily for six months.

The koalas will fly to Singapore next week, but the official handover will take place on May 20 after they complete the necessary quarantine checks and when their renovated enclosure is complete. The koalas have already been held in quarantine for several months at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

The koalas are named Paddle, Pellita, Chan and Idalia.

Although the koalas are just on loan at this time, the arrangement will become permanent once Singapore Zoo is able to support its own koala colony.

The Australian airline Qantas will transport fresh food supplies of native eucalyptus, mostly leaves, twice per week for the duration of the loan. Due to their diet, koalas normally sleep for up to 20 hours per day.

The initiative is seen as a gesture of goodwill ahead of final negotiations to formalise the two nations’ Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, called Project 2025, which was announced in August last year. It provides a 10-year framework for closer economic ties, as well as in defence, foreign affairs and people-to-people fields.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to visit Singapore later this year to sign a joint declaration with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to mark the 50 years of relations. Mr Abbott was also recently in Singapore to attend the funeral service for its founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

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