Camera-happy shoppers have been slammed for bombarding a lost koala at a shopping centre and completely disregarding its wellbeing by taking photographs.The native Australian marsupial, named Tej, was spotted wandering the car park outside of Westfield Coomera in the Gold Coast, Queensland, on Sunday.
Nearby shoppers immediately surrounded the animal to take photographs despite signs it was lost and extremely distressed.The koala tried to escape the attention and ran up a small tree to hide.Wildlife services only became aware of the situation after a post was made to social media that encouraged people to come down and see the ‘cute koala’.
Wildcare Australia’s Amy Wregg immediately went down to the shopping centre and recruited the help of the centre’s security guard to control the crowd.It then took over an hour for her to coax the stressed animal down from the tree.’We had a bit of an entourage filming us at some point, because they thought it was quite entertaining that there was a koala at a shopping centre,’ Ms Wregg told Yahoo.
‘He was very stressed and very vocal which isn’t the most pleasant sounding noise.’
The koala has been sent to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital to be treated for chlamydia.
Ms Wregg said that it will be released back into the wildlife once it has been treated.
She added it would be difficult to find a suitable place for it to live as its habitats are slowly destroyed by nearby development projects.
‘I’m just worried that wherever I release him he’s going to get pushed out again.’
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment have released a draft consultation revealing the koala population has plummeted 60 per cent across New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory in the last 20 years.
Koala habitats have also been destroyed and cleared to make way for large development projects.
This has raised fears the marsupial could become extinct in parts of the country as soon as 2050.
Ms Wregg said the ongoing development of the Coomera Connector had destroyed many local habitats and forced koalas into suburbia.
‘Personally, it is pretty soul destroying, watching them decline so rapidly and feeling like we are hitting our heads against a wall,’ she said.