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Wombat diagnosed with depression from 'lack of hugs'

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Primadonna: Tonka dropped a fifth of his body weight because he was depressed that he wasn't getting enough cuddles. Now Donna Kilpatrick, 16 and Jayden Doevendans, 16, have cheered him up.

Handlers at an animal sanctuary in north-east Australia were mystified when their star attraction was brought low by a mystery illness.

Tonka the wombat shed 20 percent of his body weight after Cyclone Yasi devastated his home at the Billabong Sanctuary, near Townsville, Queensland, closing it to visitors for eight weeks.

Billabong Sanctuary manager Brett Fleming told the Townsville Bulletin that it was only after ‘forking out serious cash’ in vet checks and lab bills that they found out the problem.

Their primadonna wombat was suffering from depression brought on by a lack of cuddles.

‘Tonka was hand-reared by one of our rangers and normally spends a good part of his day with people,’ said Mr Flemming.

‘At Billabong he is the star. Everyone wants to visit Tonka.

‘After the cyclone he missed the public – the patting, the photos, the cuddles and the endless posing for the paparazzi.’

Now, with a bit of TLC, Tonka is being nursed back to full strength in time for the popular tourist attraction to reopen this weekend.

Billabong staff have been working with chainsaws non-stop for the last eight weeks to clear the damage wrought by the cyclone.

Mr Flemming estimates some 25-30 percent of the park, which covers 25 acres of densely wooded terrain, was destroyed by the storm.

‘It looks really different after the clean up, but a good different,’ Mr Flemming told the Bulletin.

‘The gardens look really fresh.’


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