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‘Cheeky’ koala destroys thousands of plants at Australian nursery

Claude the koala was caught red-handed  (Supplied)
Claude the koala was caught red-handed (Supplied)

A vandal responsible for causing thousands of dollars-worth of damage to seedlings at an Australian nursery has been unmasked as none other than a “cheeky” - and very hungry - koala.

Humphrey Herington initially suspected goats or a possum were destroying thousands of his young eucalyptus plants, costing his company around A$6,000 (£3,000).

But he was shocked to arrive at work one morning to find a koala - who has since been named Claude - in a food-induced stupour, surrounded by the stripped plants, the BBC reports.

“He looked like he was full. He looked very pleased with himself,” Mr Herington told the BBC.

“I just couldn’t believe that it was a koala. I was shocked but I was also... a little bit impressed.”

 (Eastern Forest Nursery/WWF)
(Eastern Forest Nursery/WWF)

The plants Claude ate were reportedly being cultivated by Eastern Forest Nursery, in northern New South Wales, to help improve local habitats for the endangered koala.

Staff first noticed plants were being destroyed several months ago, but there were “no signs” as to what could be causing the damage.

Staff reportedly set up a possum trap, but to no avail, before eventually catching Claude red-handed.

“We came out to work one morning and there he was, sitting there on a pole,” Mr Herington told the BBC.

“And there were lots of plants missing that morning...I guess that day he must have had a really big feed and was too tired to go back to his tree.”

Mr Herington swaddled the koala in a towel and relocated him to some nearby woodland.

“But a couple of days later, he came back and continued with his nightly visits,” Mr Herington added.

A koala-proof fence is now being erected to protect the seedlings, the BBC reports.

The once-thriving marsupial is in serious decline in Australia, following habitat destruction, bushfires, road fires and domestic dog attacks.

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 57,920 Koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 32,065.