Tonka the wombat returns to Townsville

12 December 2017

Following his untimely death, an international outpouring of grief and restoration works in Brisbane, Tonka the bare-nosed wombat is set to return to Townsville for display at Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Tonka’s rise to international stardom began when he sank to his lowest point. After Category 5 Cyclone Yasi struck Townsville in 2011, Tonka’s home at Billabong Sanctuary was closed for ten weeks and, without visitors’ affections, Tonka sank into a deep depression.

His malaise made headlines around the world and catapulted the cuddle-loving wombat into the hearts of millions. He recovered later in 2011 when Billabong Sanctuary reopened and the wombat shows in which he starred recommenced, but sadly succumbed to kidney failure in 2016.

After hearing about Tonka’s death, Museum of Tropical Queensland obtained his body so he could be preserved and displayed, giving him the chance to once again be the subject of public affection.

Alison Douglas, a taxidermist at Queensland Museum, had the difficult task of restoring Tonka to his former glory.

“The challenge with Tonka was in recapturing the essence and personality of an animal that so many people loved and knew well,” Ms Douglas said.

“As a museum taxidermist I am used to producing specimens for their scientific, educational or conservation value.

“Tonka was less important scientifically, but very important to the people of Townsville and I hope I have done him justice.”

Acting CEO of the Queensland Museum Network Dr Jim Thompson said the team was very pleased to have been able to work with Billabong Sanctuary and bring Tonka home to Townsville.

“Tonka’s restoration was a unique project for the Queensland Museum Network — this is a story about one animal with a huge personality and the somewhat unexpected impact he had on people.”

Billabong Sanctuary owner Bob Flemming said Tonka was the most loved of any animal in the Billabong’s 30 year history. 

“Countless visitors to the Billabong and the staff who worked with him every day were deeply saddened by his passing.” 

“I doubt we will ever have another animal that could generate the same level of empathy that people shared with Tonka.”

Tonka will be on display on Level 2 at the Museum of Tropical Queensland from Friday 15 December and people are invited to leave their memories, messages and photos of Tonka on the Museum’s Facebook page and hashtag #tonkathewombat.

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Media Contacts:

Lorelle Schluter, (07) 4726 0603, 0424 408 373

Andrea Hughes, (07) 4726 0604, 0497 347 117