When This Man Locked Eyes With A Wild Koala On His Porch, He Knew Something Was Very Wrong

Image: Facebook/Bruce Atkinson via ABC Radio Melbourne

It was not unusual for Australian Bruce Atkinson to see koalas on his porch. But when one of the marsupial visitors gave him a spiky reception in late 2016, he knew that something was wrong. So he decided to go out of his way to do what he could to help the cute critter.

Image: Marcus Wong

Bruce Atkinson is a 63-year-old technology consultant in the nuclear industry who lives in the small coastal town of Apollo Bay to the east of Cape Otway in the state of Victoria, Australia. The area is host to spectacular wildlife, and its waters act as a breeding ground for southern right whales. However – like much of Australia – it also provides a home to some of the country’s native marsupials.

Image: Taz

The koala bear is one of Australia’s most iconic indigenous animals and many are found living close to human settlements. Since they don’t pose a threat to humans, most people are happy to live side by side with the lovable creatures. It was not unusual, then, for Atkinson to find koalas on his property.

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Image: Ted Lester

Moreover, Australians have a special relationship with koala bears. Across the rest of the world the adorable animals are an instantly recognizable symbol of that great country, and they are a fantastic draw for wildlife-loving tourists. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that many Australians are keen to protect the future of the species.

Image: Facebook/Bruce Atkinson

As a result, when one worried-looking koala arrived outside Atkinson’s house, he was eager to offer his help with whatever it was that was ailing the miserable marsupial. “I was just wandering out to have some breakfast early in the morning and I saw a koala on the porch,” he explained to a reporter from ABC Radio Melbourne.

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Image: Facebook/Bruce Atkinson

“It wandered up, which is not unusual,” he continued. “But this one looked a bit distraught. It was just sitting there all glum.” A concerned Atkinson went over to take a closer look to try and ascertain the nature of the animal’s problem.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

But as Atkinson advanced towards the koala, he could see what was up straight away. The creature’s fur was covered in masses of tiny plant prickles. “I went out to take a photo of it and noticed all these burrs all over it,” he explained.

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Image: Pixabay

Atkinson knew the poor creature needed his assistance. But given the fact it was a wild animal he was dealing with here, he wasn’t sure how to best approach it. So he decided to try and win the koala’s trust first by offering it a drink of water from a dish.

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However, his well-meaning gesture didn’t go down as well as he had hoped. “I grabbed a bowl of water and put it near it and it immediately got swatted out of my hand,” Atkinson revealed. He later learned that koalas get their water through sucking on gum leaves, so it is little wonder the animal was less than impressed with the bowl offering.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

Atkinson realized that since the burrs were causing the koala so much discomfort, the animal would have little patience for any human interaction. Consequently, Atkinson concluded that the best plan of action would be to simply get on with removing the spiky thorns from the koala’s fur.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

So the good Samaritan returned to his house to prepare himself for the task that he had set himself. Atkinson pulled on a motorcycle glove for protection from the cranky koala, and in his other hand he armed himself with a hairbrush. Then he went back outside to the waiting furry patient.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

Before approaching the irritable animal with the hairbrush he let it sniff at the object. Then he tested how the koala would react to being lightly touched with it. “I just gently poked the brush at some of the burrs,” Atkinson explained.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

Amazingly, the wild koala seemed to enjoy Atkinson’s brushing technique and showed none of the aggression it had displayed over the bowl of water. “Within seconds it decided, ‘This is alright, I’ll have more of this,’” Atkinson later told ABC. Yes, before his eyes the defensive animal turned completely docile.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

Astonished by what an unbelievable scene he was witnessing, Atkinson decided that he needed visual evidence of his unlikely koala encounter. So, pulling out a camera, the wildlife lover started to film himself grooming the wild creature. In the footage – which has since been uploaded online – he can be heard softy reassuring the animal as he gently brushes out the burrs.

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Image: YouTube/Storyful News

Atkinson first shared his video with the Otway Community News Facebook group. Users of the group share local reports and human interest stories from around the Cape Otway area on the page. And that corner of the online community reacted warmly to the wonderful footage of Atkinson’s brush with nature.

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Image: Facebook/Bruce Atkinson

Before long, the koala grooming video had clocked up thousands of views and had received dozens of approving comments. “Poor little fella,” read one posted below the clip. “He must have been so uncomfortable. What a trusting koala, I think you have a friend for life.”

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Image: Facebook/Otway Community News

“Such a feel-good story,” another Otway Community News follower added to the Facebook page after viewing Atkinson’s amazing footage. “Thank you, Bruce. I bet now she will impress all of her male mates with her new hairdo.”

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Image: Facebook/Otway Community News

However, Atkinson later claimed that the ability to attract the opposite sex may have been the least of the koala’s worries that day. “Wildlife officers suggested she was just getting away from the boys,” he revealed. “Because they get a bit frisky at this time of year.”

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Image: Facebook/Bruce Atkinson

Later Atkinson returned to the Otway Community News page to thank its members for all their support. “Merry Christmas to all who commented and expressed kind thoughts,” he wrote in December 2016. “I can hardly believe the overwhelming response.”

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It is unknown if the koala in question has ever returned to pay the altruistic Atkinson a visit, but it is likely that she will never forget her grooming session with the kind stranger. Although she initially gave him a prickly reception, there is no doubt the koala left Atkinson’s impromptu salon feeling fresher and much more comfortable.

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