Shock find inside pumpkin box shipped 5600km across Australia

Workers at a Melbourne warehouse were surprised to find a family of endangered northern quolls hiding inside a large box of pumpkins.

Authorities believe the carnivorous marsupials likely ventured into a hole in the cardboard while chasing mice, at a farm 5600km away in Far North Queensland.

With all species of quoll extinct in metropolitan Melbourne, workers at Melbourne Wholesale Market were unfamiliar with the species and initially thought they were possums. Despite this confusion, they managed to catch one animal before authorities arrived.

Left - The box of pumpkins that contained the quolls with a hole in it. Right - The warehouse where the quolls were discovered.
Northern quolls stowed away inside a pumpkin box in Far North Queensland and travelled 5600 to Melbourne. Source: Conservation Regulator/Supplied

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday, Megan Hain, a wildlife officer with Victoria’s Conservation Regulator, said rescuers arrived at around midday on December 13.

Because warehouse workers often work early hours, staff who had reported seeing the quolls had already left for the day. “It was a bit of a needle in the haystack mission to find where (the quolls) were located because they're quite small animals,” she said. “The only lead we had was they had come down in some Kent pumpkins, and had hidden away.”

Left - a blurry shot of the quoll in the warehouse. Right - a closeup of the quoll in a cage.
The quolls were spotted in the warehouse (left) and soon captured (right). Source: Conservation Regulator

“Miraculously” the quolls were quickly located as they scurried along the shelves and attempted to return to their box, which was located a metre from the ground. “In terms of getting them out of the box, it was a little bit precarious, because you don't want to have any pumpkins move and hurt the animals because they’re quite small.”

Endangered quolls returned home to Queensland

After their long journey, the quolls were quite tired and easy to handle. They were then assessed by veterinary staff at Melbourne Zoo, before ultimately being flown to Cairns airport on January 5.

A still showing the moment the quoll was released from a box in Far North Queensland.
The moment a quoll was released in Far North Queensland. Source: DES

Because northern quolls are territorial, the animals were transported back to the Tablelands farm where they originated by Department of Environment (DES) staff.

“Northern quolls are native to tropical and sub-tropical climates across Australia and have adapted to thrive in warmer conditions, which means they are not built to live in a typically colder place like Melbourne,” DES wildlife officer Dinouk Perera said in a statement.

“These quolls are very lucky to have been rescued and taken into care, as they had travelled a long way without food or water.”

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