Mystery Plant Thief Turned Out to Be a Koala

Claude was nabbed after he ate so much he couldn't move
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2023 1:15 PM CDT
Koala Busted Raiding Plant Nursery
The World Wildlife Fund hopes a planting program will double koala numbers on Australia's east coast.   (Getty Images/eeqmcc)

At the nursery he owns in Australia, Humphrey Herington grows plants to restore koala habitats, but he was still surprised when the animal that had been chowing down on his seedlings turned out to be a koala, a species not known for intrepid behavior. Herington tells the BBC that when workers at the Eastern Forest Nursery in New South Wales noticed months ago that plants had been eaten, he thought it was possums or possibly escaped goats, until the culprit ate so much he was too full to move. Herington, who sells his seedlings to groups including the World Wildlife Fund, says the koala "looked very pleased with himself."

"We came out to work one morning and there he was, sitting there on a pole. And there were lots of plants missing that morning," Herington says. "I guess that day he must have had a really big feed and was too tired to go back to his tree." He wrapped the koala, which he named Claude because of his big claws, in a towel and moved him to trees around 300 yards away. Claude came back a couple of days later, he says. The destroyed seedlings cost the nursery around $3,800 but Herington says he is more "impressed" than angry —and also worried that the koala had to resort to raids to find food.

"I've been here for 20-odd years and this hasn't really happened before," Herington says. "Is it that there is a shortage of food?" The WWF shared a photo of Claude on Instagram, noting that the "uncommon behavior" shows other food sources must be scarce. Herington tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he's building a koala-proof fence. "It's basically just a netting fence with star pickets and it's got a wobbly top on it, so if he tries to climb up the fence he's going to swing back out and hopefully that will keep him out." (More koala stories.)

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