A year after the video of Derek the baby wombat running on the beach went viral, tourism has picked up on Flinders Island.
The orphaned joey was rescued from his mother’s pouch by the ‘Wombat Lady of Flinders Island,’ Kate Mooney, after being hit by a car in late 2015.
After nursing Derek back to health, the then eight-month-old Joey stole hearts around the world after the video started circulating on social media.
— Australia (@Australia) March 22, 2016
Since then people have travelled from around the world to get a glimpse of the duo and have a cuddle.
“It seems to have gone a bit crazy but hopefully it will bring people to my beautiful island and see it as it is, which is a beautiful place,” Ms Mooney told the ABC.
“It’s quite rewarding just to see people when they hold a wombat, the joy they have to actually hold a wombat… they do like being cuddled.”
About 5,000 tourists travel to Flinders Island every year, the largest of the Furneaux Group of islands just off the north-east tip of Tasmania.
Thanks to Ms Mooney and Derek, the tourism industry is rising in the area.
— ABC Landline (@abclandline) March 9, 2017
Over the past few decades she has nursed more than 100 injured wombats on her 40-hectare farm.
Car strikes are a recurring problem due to the large amount of wildlife on Flinders Island, which is just over 1,000-square-kilometres in size.
“The only predator really is the car,” Ms Mooney said.
“Twenty-odd years ago somebody found a wombat on this road and gave it to me, and that’s what started it. Batsky was the first one and that was a very long time ago.”
“Derek is becoming an annoying teenage boy; still cute, but a bit of a tear-away.”