‘Expect the unexpected’: Koala rescued after scaling NSW lighthouse

By Australian Geographic 29 September 2020
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Well, you don’t see this every day. A lighthouse keeper came back from a night swim to see a koala scaling the tower.

AS A LIGHTHOUSE keeper, Mark Sheriff has been thrust into various bizarre and unusual situations, but seeing a koala making its way up to the lantern room of Smoky Cape – known as the most elevated lighthouse in NSW – was a first.

“Over the years, you can come across a mad man shimmying up to the top or the odd snake on the move, but never a koala,” he says. That was until Wednesday night when, coming back from a casual late-night swim, he saw a koala making an ascent. 

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(Image credit: Mark Sheriff)

Initially, Mark waited patiently below, spotting the koala in case it fell, but made his way inside after he heard a ruckus in the lantern room. “So, I climbed up the spiral staircase to the lantern and snatched him with my hands. I think both our hearts were beating [fast].”

(Image credit: Mark Sheriff)

Mark then released the koala back into neighbouring Hat Head National Park. “Living at a lighthouse, my old motto is ‘expect the unexpected’.” Mark says he named the koala after his mum Pat, who turned 90 years old the day before he discovered the koala.

(Image credit: Mark Sheriff)