Lonely Planet Writer

See the lucky winner of the “chief wombat cuddler” competition snuggle up with Derek the wombat

Every contest needs a lucky winner, but Justin Johnstone of Melbourne may be the luckiest of all after winning a coveted trip to Flinders Island to serve as “chief wombat cuddler” to internet sensation Derek the wombat.

 

After a video of the adorable baby Derek went viral earlier this year, the Tasmanian tourism launched a competition to bring one lucky Australian to the island, located in the Bass Strait off Tasmania’s eastern tip, to see Derek for themselves.

Justin Johnstone with the wombats.
Justin Johnstone with the wombats. Image by Tourism Tasmania

“He’s only a bit over a year old, but he’s like a teenage boy now,” said Johnstone. “So he’s still very cute, but he’s a bit of a tear-away – a bit of a rebel. And he likes to chew things.”

 

Derek is taken care of by Kate Mooney, who is also known as the Wombat Lady of Flinders Island. She has nursed more than 100 wombats back to health over the years for release back into the wild. Derek was taken in by Mooney after his mother was hit by a car. While he spent his first six months as an “only child”, he is now the big brother of two orphaned wombat siblings named April and May, according to Tourism Tasmania.

The tourism group bills Flinders Island as “one of Australia’s best kept island secrets”, but notes that there is a lot of wildlife found in Tasmania and travellers can help protect animals by driving carefully, particularly when outside of the cities.

Flinders Island can be reached from Victoria of Tasmania by Sharp Airlines or Flinders Island Aviation, or by ferry.