Derek the baby wombat melts hearts

By Shannon Verhagen 22 March 2016
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An orphaned young wombat has stolen hearts the world over after being filmed running along a Tasmanian beach.

AN EIGHT-MONTH old wombat joey is quickly becoming world-famous after a video of him running along a beach on Flinders Island went viral.

Derek was rescued from his mother’s pouch after she was hit by a car in December and is now being looked after by the ‘Wombat Lady of Flinders Island’ Kate Mooney, who found him on her way to work. 

Kate – who has a background in agriculture – has been looking after the island’s orphaned wombat joeys for the past two decades, only having one six-week period in that time without one in her care.

Derek baby wombat

Derek (pictured) has been in Kate Mooney’s care on Flinders Island, Tasmania, since December 2015. (Image: Kate Mooney)

It all began one fateful day in 1996, when she came across a wombat that had been hit by a car, discovered a joey in its pouch and took it home – naming her Batski.

“I became addicted to them ever since,” says Kate. “Just their nature, they’re very endearing, they know what they want and if they want to do something they’ll do it – the bulldozers of the bush.”

Car strike is a big problem on Flinders Island, located in the Bass Strait off the north-eastern tip of Tasmania, due to the small population of resident people but large wildlife numbers, and Kate has nursed over 100 wombats to health over the years.

Fifteen wombats currently call Kate’s 40ha property home, where they stay until they are old enough to leave and return to the wild.

“They all live in and around the house in holes and things, under the shearing shed,” Kate says.

Derek baby wombat

Derek is “a bit special” says Kate, because he’s particularly independent and capable for his age. (Image: Kate Mooney)

“Out there and daring”

Derek is what Kate describes as an “only child,” as her other wombats are no longer in need of constant care, and she says he has been a real adventurer since the day she took him in.

 “A lot of them don’t like to be out of the pouch, but he’s always been really adventurous and out there and daring. Because he’s been so self-contained and capable, he’s a bit special,” she says, adding “But they’re all special.”

Fitting multiple feeds per day around her work at the local general store means Kate has Derek tag along for the 9-5, and over the years her wombat joeys have become a must-see attraction on the island.

“People get fairly blown away just holding a wombat – it’s incredible,” Kate says.

As for the video that has taken her work to the world, Kate is amazed at how popular it has been. “It’s just gone insane,” she says.