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Ferry driver surprised by koala stowaway: 'What are you doing here?'

A rescuer was called in but she was worried she and the koala might fall into the water.

A furry stowaway threatened to delay a Victorian island’s only transport service to the mainland.

“I’ve just got to work and this is the first thing I’ve got to deal with… what are you doing here?” the ferry master Lachie says in a video supplied to Yahoo News Australia.

Filmed last Friday morning, the short clip below shows a large male koala sitting in the car docking bay. “Come on, off the ferry. Do you have your pass on you?” he jokes. The koala doesn’t move. Lachie lets out a low sigh.

Left - the ferry from a distance. Right - a circle around the koala
A male koala threatened to disrupt Raymond Island's only early morning ferry service. Source: Koalas of Raymond Island

Koala rescuer fears 'falling in the drink'

It was getting close to 5am, and passengers at Raymond Island would be relying on Lachie to get them across the water to catch the connecting train to Melbourne from Bairnsdale.

Cath Winzer, one of the island’s volunteer wildlife rescuers, was fast asleep when she received a phone alert asking for help. By the time she arrived at the harbour, she was running on adrenaline and didn’t register the bitter cold.

She’d hoped to quickly grab the koala in a towel and then return home to bed, but when she arrived the koala had wandered across the ferry and was balancing precariously above the water.

“He’d got to the worst possible place… so that was a bit of a concern,” Cath told Yahoo.

“My biggest worry was that he’d go in the drink. But actually, I had to think about myself too, because I thought if I go up after him and he fights back things could go pear-shaped. I can swim but I didn’t fancy going in at 5 o’clock in the morning."

Three images of the koala close up as he moved across the Richmond Island ferry.
Before the rescuer arrived, the koala moved across the boat to the water's edge. Source: Koalas of Raymond Island

Using a long-armed fishing net Cath was able to coax the koala back to safety and inspect him for injuries, and after giving him the all-clear he was set free again.

Koala carers in need of help after influx of patients

While encountering a koala on a ferry may seem unusual, volunteers at Koalas of Raymond Island are frequently called to help care for disorientated animals.

The charity’s president Shelley Robinson told Yahoo the animals can be frightened by dogs, people or loud noises, causing them to flee towards the water. “They end up in ferries, yachts, and catamarans,” she said.

The koala on the edge of the ferry with Cath holding a towel.
The koala climbed to the edge of the ferry, precariously balancing above the water. Cath Winzer (pictured) was concerned they both could fall in. Source: Koalas of Raymond Island

Incidents tend to spike during holiday season when tourists flock to the island, but this month the team also found themselves at capacity.

Caring for so many koalas is costly for the volunteer-run organisation, with blood tests and X-rays costing over $500 if they use veterinary services on the island.

While the group is now periodically assisted by Wildlife Victoria’s free travelling vet service, they still desperately require donations to help care for the area’s wildlife. You can find out more about their work here.

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