Australia, for those that have never visited, can seem like an almost mythical place – Christmas in the summer, the fictional “drop bear” invented to scare tourists, and the many real-life, strange animals that call it home can all lead outsiders to never know exactly what news reports to believe about the land down under.
It’s no surprise, then, that many social media users jumped to conclusions after reports of a five car pileup on a busy Adelaide freeway. The crash, some believed, was caused not by a runaway vehicle, but one with a koala at the wheel! While this wasn’t the true story, the photo that quickly went viral on social media left many with that exact impression:
The true story is a bit more complicated. Fortunately, much of it was later explained by the woman who took the charming photos. Nadia Tugwell was on her way to work that Monday morning in Adelaide, when traffic came to a standstill. Getting out of her car to investigate, Tugwell found the cause: A koala, who had decided to cross the six-lane highway during rush hour for unknown reasons. Details on those involved in the crash are scarce, but it was likely caused when one driver noticed the meandering marsupial and swerved, causing a domino effect. Luckily, though there were some minor injuries, no one at the scene required an ambulance. The koala didn’t have a scratch on him!
This wasn’t the first time Tugwell had interacted with koalas; she’s even rescued one before. Thinking quickly, she put the koala in the trunk of her car and parked at a nearby gas station while waiting for animal rescue. The koala “was very active, but very calm,” she later told AP.
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As she waited, the koala grew impatient. He crawled from the trunk, where she tried to contain him, towards the front of the vehicle. Knowing that even the most gentle creatures can become agitated in a tight space, she decided to exit the car. Before she did, however, she took a few snapshots of the fuzzy, photogenic critter: “It started sitting for a while on the steering wheel, saying: ‘let’s go for a drive,’ and that’s when I started taking photos,” she added.
Users on social media were quick to riff on the photo and add captions in the koala’s voice:
Fortunately for everyone involved, what could have been a dangerous collision became something much more light-hearted. After the photo shoot, authorities were able to relocate the koala to a forested area, far from freeways and major roads.
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