In another stellar entry for the ’Only in Australia' folder, a family recently returned to their Adelaide home to find an unconventional ornament clinging to their plastic Christmas tree: a live koala.

The McCormicks were only out of the house for an afternoon on December 2, but that provided enough time for a festive-feeling marsupial to shuffle its way into their home and clamber into the branches of their Christmas tree. When the family returned, they immediately realised something was amiss when they opened the front door and their dog made a beeline for the tree. A floor strewn with broken baubles was the second clue and it didn’t take Mrs McCormick long to spot the new addition to the tree.

“[The koala] was pretty tangled up in the lights,” 16-year-old Taylah McCormick explained to The Guardian. “It was a fake tree and very old but she still tried eating the leaves off it … I saw her munch down on some but she stopped when she realised it was plastic.”

Amanda McCormick – Taylah’s mother – was about as shocked as you’d expect a person who just found a live koala in their Christmas tree to be. “I thought one of my kids may have put like a soft toy in there, but no, it was a live one,” she said. “We’ve had them in our trees before but not inside on our Christmas tree … It must have crawled in when the doors were open, it would have been in our house for at least three hours.”

The McCormick’s quickly called the hotline for the Adelaide and Hills Koala Rescue, but when they described their predicament to the operator, their story was met with some skepticism. “The call went through to our 24-hour hotlines and of course the operator at first thought it was a prank call,” Adelaide and Hills Koala Rescue co-founder Dee Hearne-Hellon told The Guardian.

After some convincing, the rescue team arrived to unsnarl the koala – an operation that resulted in much disgruntled bellowing from the marsupial. According to Hearne-Hellon the home invader was a healthy, juvenile female of about three to four years old.

The koala – named “Daphne” by Taylah – likely popped in out of curiosity. “It’s not actually that hot, so they wouldn’t be seeking shade, particularly at the moment … They are curious, and they are in the suburbs, and if they see something that they want to have a look at they’ll just drop in and have a look,” Hearne-Hellon explained.

A plastic-leafed tree is hardly a healthy environment for a species known to dine exclusively on eucalyptus leaves, and thankfully Daphne was released into a bushy area nearby where it’s hoped she’ll remain.

Of course, Daphne isn’t the first Australian animal to try its luck masquerading as a Christmas ornament: Last year, a couple in Brisbane arrived home from work to find a carpet python draped around their tree like a length of living tinsel.

Christmas in Australia. Go figure.

Top header image: Justin Brown, Flickr