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There’s a fascination with child stars. Where are they now? What’s life like? For Derek the Flinders Island wombat, he was catapulted to stardom when his beach frolic went viral. Derek and his carer Kate Mooney, affectionately known as The Wombat Lady, caused an international social media frenzy. Everyone fell in love with the orphaned baby.

It’s been 20 months since Derek’s infant fame, and these days he’s a big burly bloke. He tips the scales at 15 kilos, a hefty weight compared with the 780-gram bundle Kate scooped into her care following the loss of his Mum.

“He’s big and wild these days,” says Kate. “He’s a surly teenager still. He’s stopped hanging out with his younger sisters April and May. They used to be a trio but Derek has become quite solitary. He’s heading out on his own, which is what he needs to do.”

Derek the Wombat Flinders Island

…these days he’s a big burly bloke

Image Credit: Luke Tscharke

For Kate, the ultimate goal is for her much loved wombats to venture out the back door and never return. In her near 40 years on the island, Kate has raised more than 100 orphaned wombats and only two weekends ago invited five new babies into the fold.

“There’s lots of other little ones that have taken over from Derek. The need is constant,” explains Kate. “I have other carers to help me now as there are just too many. I’ve kept the baby girls – Irma, Agnes and Iris. There’s a family with children who are home schooled. They have Snowball One and Snowball Two.”

Kate with wombat Derek Flinders Island

…Kate’s 100 acre property north of Whitemark has become an unofficial wombat orphanage

Image Credit: Luke Tscharke

Many names have come and gone through Kate’s care. Her 100 acre property north of Whitemark has become an unofficial wombat orphanage. Some islanders come home and pour a glass of wine, but for Kate, she pours milk into baby bottles. Her fur-children can’t wait to see her.

As for Derek, like the others, one day he’ll never return. For now, he checks in and enjoys a sprinkling of pony pellets. When the grass begins to flourish, Kate sees him less. He’s also getting to the age where he has that ‘special someone’ on his mind so it’s likely his nights are spent looking for a mate. It’s probably why he ditched his little sisters.

So what’s a typical day for Derek now? Lots of the day is spent fast asleep. “Right now he’d be asleep under the shearing shed,” says Kate. “Then he’ll come out and graze later in the evening about half past eight. Wombats start their day very slowly. Typically they’ll come to the top of their burrow and just stay there, waking up gently. They’re incredible creatures – clever as a dog.”

Derek wombat Flinders Island Tasmania

…They’re incredible creatures – clever as a dog

Image Credit: Luke Tscharke

For Derek, his stardom hasn’t faded. Film crews still show up on his doorstep, mostly when he’s fast asleep. Visitors to the island often ask his mother how Derek is going and what he’s up to. Kate doesn’t like to admit that four months ago he nipped her on the back of the leg, a reminder of Derek’s wilder side. Perhaps he was just showing his strength – according to his Mum boys tend to be a little more aggressive than their female counterparts.

But, a few teenage tantrums won’t stop Kate. She’ll continue to mother many and is delighted with her new wombat yard, built as a school project by a year 8 Scotch Oakburn student who lives nearby.

Now that Derek is re-wilding himself, what is a tourist to do if he or she can’t locate the resident celebrity? They can busy themselves with a climb up Mt. Strzelecki, a 756 metre climb above sea level, offering sweeping views across to Tasmania on a clear day. Trousers Point is another fine destination to lose some hours to snorkelling, a beachside picnic or coastal walking through casuarina woodlands and heaths.

Trousers Point Flinders Island

…Trousers Point is another fine destination to lose some hours to snorkelling, a beachside picnic or a coastal walk

Image Credit: Dietmar Kahles

There’s diamonds of the Killicrankie variety on Flinders for those who love a good treasure hunt and places like The Docks are considered treasure in the eyes of locals. You might need to ask someone who lives there how to get to this secret location. Why not go into the newsagency where Kate works … there might just be a baby wombat behind the counter. It is Flinders Island after all.

The Dock Flinders Island

Located between Killiecrankie and Palana, The Dock presents fantastic coastline plus spectacular rock outcrops.

Image Credit: Dietmar Kahles

Alice Hansen - Tailored Tasmania

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