26 December 2021

It's a (post) Christmas miracle - Merlin the wombat found alive and very well

| Sally Hopman
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wombat and human

Merlin the wandering wombat safe in his carer’s arms today after being found at Hackett. Photo: ACT Wildlife.

As if by magic, Merlin the missing wombat has been found.

The 22kg marsupial, which went missing from his Ainslie carers’ home on December 14, was found this morning (26 December) about 5km away behind a Hackett house. The home backs on to a reserve where Merlin’s carers believe he had been digging in, making himself at home.

The Hackett family, which was on its way to catch a plane to go on holidays, spotted Merlin. Their neighbour, who had seen the story about Merlin’s disappearance on Riotact on December 22, suggested it might be the missing wombat, and they called the rangers.

It took only half an hour from when the Hackett family found Merlin to him being returned to the safety (and likely newly reinforced fence around his) carers’ home at Ainslie.

“I’ve been doing my happy dance all morning, and so has everyone else,” ACT Wildlife’s Lindy Butcher said. “We’ve had wombats go missing before but never for this long. We were starting to get quite concerned.”

“The rangers called me and then I called everyone to say he was safe,” she said. “The carer family went over there straight away. Merlin was a little apprehensive about the new people there but when he saw his carer and heard his voice, he went straight to him.

“He calmed Merlin down and gave him some treats he’d brought and then took him home.

“Remarkably, he hasn’t got a scratch on him. He’s still plump, he’s in a beautiful condition.”

READ ALSO Wombat with joey caught on camera ‘fantastic’ sign for secret ACT sanctuary

Merlin had been with the Ainslie carers since late last year when he was brought in as a tiny orphan, weighing under 2kg. It has been a family effort, with everyone looking after the, now, big fellow, from bottle feeds as a baby to dealing with his not always happy disposition as a toddler.

“If he’s grumpy, that means we’ve done our job well because that’s his natural demeanour,” Lindy said.

After he was found today, Lindy said she spoke to his carers and they’ve decided to bring forward his move back into the wild to tomorrow.

“He’s clearly ready to go,” she said. “It’s like he’s told us.

“We knew he was ready, we were just waiting on finding the best area for his burrow and access to water – but we have decided to let him go tomorrow,” she said.

There is probably only one person, sorry marsupial, not so thrilled that Merlin has returned to Ainslie. That would be a youngster called Garritt, who became the only marsupial of the house when Merlin was on the waddle.

Also unlikely to be thrilled later today, will be households in a 5km radius from Ainslie to Hackett where Merlin probably made his mark during his escape – with a burrow or 20 and perhaps strong evidence that he visited their shed or garage.

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