Thylarctos plummetus, known colloquially as the “drop bear,” is a sub-species of koala inhabiting southeastern Australia. Larger and more aggressive than typical koalas, drop bears are omnivorous — but, according to the Australian Museum, meat comprises the majority of their diet. In the pantheon of deadly Australian animals, drop bears are perhaps the cutest,
but they are wily predators that can wait for hours for unsuspecting prey to pass beneath the dense foliage of the canopy, at which point they drop straight down atop their victim, using the force of the drop — not to mention their powerful forelimbs, sharp claws, and shearing teeth — to subdue their prey. They have been known to take down animals over twice as large as themselves, though they prefer smaller prey that they can drag back up into the tree for private dining.
Though they are somewhat elusive, staying well clear of inhabited areas, drop bears have been known to attack humans hiking through the bush, though no fatalities have been recorded. They reportedly attacked a prison camp for Japanese POWs in 1946, and Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame had a close encounter with them while filming in 1981. That said, historically, recorded attacks have been few. However, as their natural habitat shrinks due to fires, drought, and encroaching civilization, the bears are becoming increasingly unpredictable and volatile, causing the Australian government to issue a warning to tourists. Some even believe drop bears’ keen hearing allows them to distinguish between native accents and tourists’ accents — a bit of local wisdom that is actually backed up by scientific study. Tips for avoiding drop bear attacks range from mimicking an Australian accent, to wearing forks in one’s hair, to smearing vegemite or another strong-smelling yeasty substance on one’s chest and neck.
The drop bear is, of course, pure fiction, a cryptozoological prank Australians like to play on tourists. However, Australia did host a large carnivorous marsupial at one time — Thylacoleo carnifex, or the “marsupial lion.”
The now extinct “lion” was more akin to a giant Tasmanian devil in appearance, but in behavior, it is believed to have acted much like, well, like an oversized, weaponized koala — climbing trees by wrapping their arms around them and ambushing prey before dragging the carcasses back into the trees or into a cave for safe consumption.
Enjoy this brave British reporter handling a drop bear in captivity, and have a great day, Avocados! Keep your eyes on the trees!