Queensland’s Australia Zoo has a new occupant – a rare white koala. The zoo’s administration have started a social media campaign asking people to suggest names for the female joey. Experts dismissed the possibility of albinism and said the marsupial could have inherited the colour of her coat from her mother’s recessive gene.

“In veterinary science, it is often referred to as the ‘silvering gene’ where animals are born with white or very pale fur and, just like baby teeth, they eventually shed their baby fur and the regular adult colouration comes through,” said Dr Rosie Booth, the zoo’s wildlife hospital director.

An ecologist at the Central Queensland University, Dr Alistair Melzer, said they had not seen a white koala in more than 20 years. Melzer, who has been studying the species in their natural environment, said its colouring would have been a disadvantage to its survival in the wild, where koalas are prey for eagles and owls.