3 Nov 2023


News flash: viral sensation Claude ‘the leaf thief’ koala now has a partner in crime feasting on eucalypt seedlings at Eastern Forest Nursery near Lismore in the Northern Rivers region.

A sensor camera set up by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia recorded a mother, carrying a joey, on four different nights in September and October helping herself to seedlings.

“I think Claude has introduced his partner and joey to the all-you-can-eat buffet, now that she’s eating for two,” joked nursery owner Humphrey Herington, who supplies seedlings for WWF’s koala habitat restoration projects.

A mother koala and her joey caught on sensor camera at Eastern Forest Nursery. © Eastern Forest Nursery / WWF-Australia

Not to be outdone, crafty Claude waited until the afternoon of Saturday 16 September, when no workers were around, to launch a daring daytime raid. For 45 minutes the camera captured Claude chewing on seedlings still recovering from his previous grazing efforts.

Mr Herington has donated more than 3,000 of Claude’s munched-on seedlings to WWF.

“While Claude’s antics have amused people around the world there’s a big problem behind his behaviour. We have a desperate need for more koala food trees. South Gundurimba where my nursery is located was heavily cleared in the past,” said Mr Herington.

One of the photos that launched Claude’s fame. © Eastern Forest Nursery

At any one time up to 12 koalas can be found in the thin strip of mature eucalypts that surround his nursery, with many of those trees showing signs of being over grazed.

“Koalas don’t have enough to eat so they’re raiding seedlings, and cramming into the nursery’s perimeter trees. It’s a big concern. To Regenerate Nature by 2030, and save koalas, we need to create more habitat,” said Tanya Pritchard, Senior Manager Koala Recovery, WWF-Australia.

“We’re talking to the landholder directly opposite the nursery about planting Claude’s lunch leftovers on his property,” she said.

WWF-Australia is fundraising to cover the costs of planting, watering and maintaining Claude’s lunch leftovers for two years until they’re established.