‘World’s oldest koala bear’ Lottie dies aged 19 as heartbroken zoo pays tribute

A "iconic" koala, thought to be the oldest in the world, has tragically died.

Lottie had lived to the ripe old age of while living at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, US.

During her time here she raised 11 joeys, giving life to 15 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, the zoo said.

Heartbroken zoo staff have shared their devastation at the death.

In a post on Facebook, the zoo wrote: "Anyone who has ever loved an animal knows, we experience many incredible “ups” during our time with them, but we experience extreme lows when that time ends.

"We're very sad to announce the loss of Riverbanks' beloved koala, Lottie.

"Because of the exceptional care provided by Riverbanks' during her time at the Zoo, Lottie lived 19 wonderful years and had a huge impact on the koala population in AZA-accredited zoos. Lottie was considered one of the world's oldest koalas.

"Lottie was a well-known member of the Riverbanks family, arriving in 2003 as a gift from Queensland, Australia!

"She is famous for raising 11 joeys, and has left quite the impressive family tree, including 15 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, and even 3 great great grandchildren.

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"Lottie was a favorite among guests and staff alike and will always be remembered as an iconic ambassador for koalas."

“She just did everything right. Keepers loved her, and she came here to bring new genes into our captive population (in North America)," John Davis, the zoo’s director of animal care and welfare told The Post and Courier.

"That was very, very significant for Riverbanks and brought awareness to a very unique and pretty cool species."

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Davis said Lottie’s keepers started to notice mobility issues when she turned 16, but an acupuncture regimen relieved her of the pain and contributed to her overall health.

That same year, she gave birth to Charlotte, her last joey, who also lives at Riverbanks.

“She was such a wonderful mom. She took such great care and was successful with her joeys,” Davis said. “We want to maintain a good pedigree and self-sustaining population.”

Despite the tragic death, zookepers are determined to celebrate Lottie's fantastic life.

“It was sad, but we’re celebrating Lottie. Celebrating her life and what she meant to the community,” he said. “The fact people could come here and watch her and celebrate her successes, there was something about Lottie. Her face could really grab you.”

The oldest koala ever in captivity was Sarah, who died in 2001 aged 23 years old.

Sarah was born in 1978 and lived at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Queensland, Australia.

The average age for a koala is 12 years in the wild and 16 in captivity.

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