A Scottish reporter stared death in the face when she handled a vicious Australian native: a drop bear. Or so she thought.
UK’s ITV News Asia reporter Debi Edward, got kitted up in defensive gear, which included safety goggles, gloves, boots and body armour, to protect her from the animal’s long claws and fangs during a visit to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in South Australia.
But what she thought was a dangerous predator was actually a harmless koala.
The journalist fell victim to a classic Australian prank. Tales of drop bears, with their sharp teeth, falling from trees to attack passerbys were often told to tourists travelling around the country. Many were usually aware of its nonsense, but Edwards had no idea.
* Australia fires: Thousands petition for koalas to be introduced to New Zealand
* Why establishing koalas in New Zealand may not be a good idea, and isn’t needed
* Sisters make koala soaps to support animals injured in Australian bushfires
* Australian bushfires: Why are koalas desperately drinking from water bottles?
Veterinarian Dr Garnett Hall convinced Edward of its danger. Speaking from the wildlife park, he said drop bear attacks were the third most common injuries among tourists.
He described the animal, which he said was named by explorer James Cook, as a “really vicious” cousin of the beloved koala.
“They’re bigger, they’ve got longer claws, they’ve actually got really small fangs, and the interesting thing about the fangs is they have a really mild venom, it’s not like a snake venom that can make you really sick, but it just causes a lot of really local irritation,” he said as a worried Edward listened on.
A video of the prank shared on social media showed Edward being kitted up in the drop bear suit. “I’m a bit worried about why I need this level of protection,” she said while the Aussie vet smirked behind her.
The whole crew at the wildlife park were in on the prank.
Park co-owner Sam Mitchell protected his face as he carried the koala over and guided Edward on how to hold it.
Once it was in her arms, Edward appeared nervous. “I’m trying not to be worried because I’ve been told that he can sense if I’m worried.”
At one point Hall said he was going to get a dart gun to subdue the animal.
When the koala began looking around, she asked for it to be taken off her. “Please, please take it off me,” she begged.
Hall then casually grabbed the koala and passed it back to Mitchell, showing how non-threatening it actually was.
“I totally bought it, hook line and sinker,” she laughed.
Speaking with Nine’s The Today Show after footage of the prank circulated online, Edward said it was “really great fun” and noted how that was the first time they saw an exhausted Mitchell laugh after he had been working hard to fight the fires and save wildlife.