An Australian family came home to a bear-y sweet surprise on Wednesday evening: a live, juvenile koala bear nestled in the branches of their Christmas tree.
The McCormick family of Adelaide, Australia, was out on errands Wednesday, and when they came home it seemed like something was amiss. Several ornaments that once adorned their plastic Christmas tree were scattered on the ground, and the family dog started sniffing at the tree branches and trunk.
Upon closer inspection, the family discovered there was a confused-looking koala in their tree, attempting to nibble on the plastic branches.
“I think the dog went straight to the Christmas tree and was sniffing around and Mom thought that was a bit weird,” said 16-year-old daughter Taylah to the Guardian.
“There was baubles all over the floor, and she looked up and there was a koala in the tree,” she continued. “It was pretty tangled up in the lights. 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.”
Taylah named the young female koala Daphne.
The family’s mother, Amanda, immediately called the Adelaide and Hills Koala Rescue, also known as 1300Koalaz, upon finding the tree stowaway, but the organization thought it was a joke.
“The call went through to our 24-hour hotlines and of course the operator at first thought it was a prank call,” co-founder Dee Hearne-Hellon said, according to a Facebook post by the organization. “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 confirmed that the koala is approximately three to four years old, and is in good health. Amanda believes the little koala must have sneaked into the house through an open door, and was probably in there for hours.
“It’s not actually that hot, so (koalas) 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.”
After untangling the animal and conducting a brief examination, the rescue team released Daphne into a nearby forest, placing her into a tree.
This adorable encounter seemed to brighten spirits around the world as people feel frustrated and confined by various COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
One social media user went so far as to say Daphne “saved” 2020.
Others chimed in to say that the story had brightened their day, or posted their own “tree koalas.” There were also multiple references to the owl found in New York City’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
The McCormick family says they’re going to continue to keep an eye open for their one-time, furry Christmas tree ornament in the bush surrounding their home.