An Australian family came home Wednesday to find an unusual ornament in their Christmas tree -- a live koala clinging to a branch.
The McCormicks were gone for about three hours when they returned to their house in Adelaide around 6 p.m. to find the juvenile koala amid the silver, pink and blue tinsel, baubles and lights on their aged plastic tree.
“It was pretty tangled up in the lights,” daughter Taylah McCormick told The Guardian. “It was a fake tree and very old but she still tried eating the leaves off it … I saw her munch down on some but she stopped when she realized it was plastic.”
The area is known to be a habitat for the small, tree-climbing bears.
“We’ve had them in our trees before but not inside on our Christmas tree,” mother, Amanda McCormick told The Guardian. “It must have crawled in when the doors were open, it would have been in our house for at least three hours.”
McCormick called Adelaide and Hills Koala Rescue -- who did not believe the story at first.
“The call went through to our 24-hour hotlines and of course the operator at first thought it was a prank call,” Dee Hearne-Hellon, founder of the rescue group, told the Guardian. “Apparently it took a little bit of convincing that, no … Amanda really did have a koala in her Christmas tree … It was just so gorgeous, seeing it sitting there just looking.”
Hearne-Hellon said it is not uncommon for koalas to come inside a home and this one likely ventured inside because she was attracted to the tree.
“It’s not actually that hot, so they wouldn’t be seeking shade, particularly at the moment,” Hearne-Hellon said. “They are curious, and they are in the suburbs, and if they see something that they want to have a look at they’ll just drop in and have a look.”
“The koala was a healthy juvenile female and was released out the front of the house, which is in a really lovely area for koalas if they have to live amongst us,” Hearne-Hellon said. “The koala was still in the same tree she chose to climb when I saw her (Thursday).”
The family said they will keep an eye out for Daphne from now on.