As Chris Thomas came to the rescue, he probably knew the creature didn’t have much time left. Witnesses had reported that the animal seemed exhausted from its efforts to keep afloat. But then, in the nick of time, Thomas saw the struggling shape in the water up ahead.
Thomas works as a crew member for Manly Fast Ferry in New South Wales, Australia. The boat service connects Sydney Harbor in the southeast of the country to the nearby suburb of Manly. Rather than transporting passengers, though, on January 31, 2018, one of its vessels had an unexpected assignment.
That’s because witnesses had reported seeing an unusual object in the water, some 160 feet from the shore. And whatever the thing was, it was alive – for the time being, at least. Worryingly, the strange shape appeared to be fighting to stay afloat.
Realizing that the creature was in some distress, one of the concerned onlookers went to summon help. And luckily, help arrived in the form of Joseph Battaglia, a volunteer member with local animal rescue group, Sydney Wildlife.
Battaglia was in the area tending to some fairy penguins when the witness approached him. He recounted what happened to ABC News on February 5, 2018. “This woman came to us with a pram and a couple of kids in it,” he recalled.
Battaglia went on to explain that the woman had seen something leap into the water and start swimming. And as other wildlife rescue volunteers corroborated the woman’s story, it seemed clear that there was an animal in peril. Quite aside from drowning, though, the creature also faced another danger in the harbor.
Indeed, the ferries themselves posed the biggest hazard to the water-bound animal. Sydney Ferries staff member Jackie Carroll told ABC News that they were focused on avoiding a possible collision. For this reason, some services were delayed until the animal could be rescued.
The creature in the water turned out to be a wallaby, but what it was doing there is anybody’s guess. Luckily for the little fella, though, help was at hand in the form of the aforementioned Manly Fast Ferry crew member, Chris Thomas. And frtunately, Thomas’ boat just happened to be nearby.
However, the difficult part was still to come, as getting the wallaby to safety would prove to be a delicate operation. To begin with, the crew tried literally throwing the wallaby a lifeline, but the on-board preserver missed the animal. Hence, they came up with another plan of action.
This involved making a lasso from a rope, which the crew subsequently hoped to loop over the wallaby. On seeing this, Jodi Lewis, another volunteer at Sydney Wildlife, offered her two cents’ worth. She explained her game plan to The Sydney Morning Herald on February 2, 2018.
“When I saw them using the lasso thing I thought that was a really good idea,” Lewis said. “I suggested they try and grab her tail. [That] is how we are taught with the macropod rescue, [to] maneuver her onto the boat and to safety.”
First, though, they had to reach the wallaby’s tail, which was a problem in itself. “Luckily we had three crew on board at that time,” Carroll told ABC News. “One person was driving the boat and one was leaning over the side, while another staff member had the rope.”
“The staff member who was leaning over had his legs held down so he didn’t slide off,” Carroll continued. “He was lying on the deck leaning quite far over to save the wallaby.” And between them, the trio eventually managed to haul the stricken animal out of the water.
Meanwhile, cheers erupted from the watching crowd as it became clear that the rescue had been successful. Then, after wrapping the wallaby in a blanket, Sydney Wildlife volunteers took the animal to a veterinarian to be checked over.
They took the wallaby to Forest Animal Hospital, where staff revealed that she was female. Furthermore, Lewis decided to name her Christine after one of her rescuers, Chris Thomas. And Christine appeared to be doing pretty good, all things considered. The wallaby had a few scratches on her foot and some water in her lungs, but other than that she was fine.
As for the burning question of how Christine had ended up in the water, well, it seemed there was no clear-cut answer. One theory is that a dog caused the wallaby to panic; indeed, witnesses claimed to have seen a dog off its leash in a nearby leash-only zone. It’s possible, then, that Christine fled to the water to escape.
Lewis expanded on this hunch when she spoke to The Daily Telegraph on February 2, 2018. “[Christine] might have been exploring something and she’s got spooked, and then the dog didn’t help,” she said. Moreover, it turns out Christine wasn’t the only wallaby to go exploring recently.
Indeed, one of Christine’s contemporaries also decided to check out what the city had to offer in January 2018. Responding to reports of a wallaby on Sydney Harbor Bridge, police caught the animal as it hopped down a local freeway. Thankfully, the wallaby wasn’t hurt, but it could be a sign of a much bigger problem in the area.
Edwina Laginestra from the wildlife rescue group WIRES certainly thinks so. “Something is spooking them,” she told Manly Daily after rescuing another urban wallaby in 2017. “It wouldn’t be surprising if [the situation] was being caused by the school development up at Manly Vale.”
Lewis, too, thinks building works may be at the root of the problem. “It’s possible the land clearing is starting to have an effect on animals,” she told The Daily Telegraph. Whatever the cause, at least there are some good folk in Sydney who have the wallabies’ backs. “We do what we can,” Lewis concluded.