Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Koala With A Taste For Shopping - And Maccas!

Foreigners often ask Australians if kangaroos hop down their streets. 

Forget the kangaroos. In the South Burnett town of Kingaroy yesterday, a koala took a leisurely stroll to the local shops!

The restless resident then followed that up early this morning, this time turning up at Maccas in search of a feed.

Our own family hairdresser and friend Brooke Stead was returning movies at a DVD vending machine Kingaroy Shoppingworld about 2.30 pm yesterday, when a koala entered the car park from usually busy Youngman Street and casually walked past her.  

“I was stunned,” she said. “Luckily the shopping centre was shut because it was a public holiday, or the car park would have been full of vehicles.” 

Clearly unimpressed that nothing was open due to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, the cuddly marsupial went walkabout. 

Wanting to ensure the animal stayed safe, Brooke followed from a safe distance as it wandered along Alford Street. A small group gathered and could hardly bear the cute factor as the koala sauntered past a popular Chinese restaurant, electrical store, gym, American-style diner, and radio station 

With the normally crowded stores empty, the unlikely window-shopper made a beeline for a small group of shops opposite the main centre, cutting through the car park again and onto Glendon Street. 

“As it crossed the road, a car almost ran straight over it,” Brooke said. ‘I couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even slow down.” 

The shaken koala hastily made a getaway by climbing the nearest date palm – not a eucalyptus tree – overlooking Heartfelt Flowers, a florist and gift shop.  

Brooke called in Neale Ambler of Wildlife Rescue South Burnett Inc. to rescue the inquisitive koala. Snake catcher Darryl Robinson, of South Burnett Snake Catchers 24/7, assisted. 

Despite calling for a higher ladder, all efforts to reach the koala were unsuccessful.

(Video credit: Brooke Stead)

At 4.30 am today, South Burnett Snake Catchers 24/7 received reports the koala was at McDonalds, at the corner of Youngman and Haly streets. The Kingaroy Maccas is known fondly for a walk-through service in the drive-in bay after midnight, which is popular with the town's other nocturnal residents. 

With gum leaves not on the menu, the wily koala is still at large. It is believed the RSPCA is sending back-up from Brisbane to relocate it.  

Brooke posted photos and video on Facebook, where the footage has gone viral. 

Comments include: 

‘Why did the koala cross the road? Because he didn’t bring his wallet.’ – Meredith Knowles 

‘Bugger...Public holiday, nothing is open.’ – Andrea Betts 

‘Typical long weekend in Oz. Where all the Aussies are out and about.’ – Louise Gregory. 

Kingaroy is arguably best known for being the peanut capital of Australia, and is currently one of four towns in the country which are in the running for Wotif’s ‘Next Big Thing Competition to build an iconic attraction. 

However, the town, about 2 ½ hours’ drive from Brisbane, is also well known for navy beans, olive oil, dubosia, wine, lavender, and bacon, having recently hosted the region’s first BaconFest. It was also the home of the former premier, the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and his wife, former Senator, the late Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen. 

Brooke says she posted the footage in a mixture of surprise and concern. 

“I would much rather see a happy post than some of the negative things we see online, and you don’t see a koala at the shops every day,” she said. “But I also wanted to make sure it was safe. It was nice to see that people cared about it."

South Burnett social media personality Damien Martoo of The Martoo Review joined the local campaign to save the curious koala, after stumbling across Brooke's video while doing maintenance on the team's page yesterday.

"CeeCee from The Junior Martoo Review loves koalas and is interested in becoming a wildlife ranger one day," Damien said. "She and her twin Emmie asked if we could pop down and help find him."

The trio were also concerned the koala might be hit by a car or attacked by stray animals and put out a warning to residents to slow down when driving in town. 

Damien made another post to The Martoo Review following their visit to the koala's date palm. 

(Video credit: The Martoo Review)

And maybe, instead of campaigning for a Big Peanut, Kingaroy residents might want to think about a Big Koala instead? Or at least a few gum trees ...

Just another weekend in the South Burnett!

UPDATE: Old Mate (the koala) was eventually found in a tree near Kingaroy's Aldi store later this week. A wildlife rescue team relocated it and transported it to the Brisbane RSPCA in Wacol, which is funnily enough, very close to where the kids and I used to live in the city. We spent a lot of time supporting fundraising days, visiting the animals and wishing we could adopt them all. When we went away one weekend and @lucymarquardt escaped from her petsitter, a lovely person delivered her to this very place. We received a phone call before we were 45 minutes along the highway and tracked back to find one of the lovely volunteers cuddling our shaking dog at her desk. They do great work there. Sometimes it really is a small world.