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Is that koala driving? See the story behind the viral photo

Spoiler: The rogue marsupial in Australia wasn't actually driving the car.
driving koala
After being rescued, the koala posed in a now-viral photo.Nadia Tugwell / AP
/ Source: TMRW

A koala caused chaos on a busy Australian road before posing for a photo that instantly became a meme on social media.

According to the Associated Press, the incident started in Adelaide, Australia, when a koala tried to cross a six-lane freeway during the Monday morning rush hour. While it's unclear what happened next, the situation ended with a five-car pileup; police said there were some injuries reported but no one required an ambulance.

One woman present, Nadia Tugwell, told the Associated Press that she got out of her car to investigate what had caused the pileup. She and a stranger worked together to catch the animal, which had been blocked from crossing the freeway by a concrete barrier. Tugwell, who has rescued koalas before, said that the animal was "absolutely not damaged in any way" and was "very active, but very calm" during its rescue. She placed the animal in the trunk of her car, then drove to a gas station so she could call wildlife rescuers. While parked at the gas station, the koala climbed into the front seat of the car.

The koala climbed to the front seat and onto the dashboard of Tugwell's car in Adelaide, Australia. Nadia Tugwell / AP

"It decided to come to the front toward me, so I said 'OK, you stay here, I'll get out," Tugwell said, according to the Associated Press. "It started sitting for a while on the steering wheel, (as if) saying 'Let's go for a drive,' and that's when I started taking photos."

One of those images shortly went viral, leading to memes and the mistaken belief that the koala had been driving the vehicle to cause the pileup. Many put an Australian twist on the popular "Get in loser, we're going shopping," line from Mean Girls.

Others joked that there was no way the animal was "koala-fied" to operate a vehicle.

In other posts, social media users joked that the story sounded like the plot of a movie. Comedy Central even joined in on the fun, comparing the photo to a scene from the 2018 remake of "A Star is Born."

Tugwell said that her car's interior was scratched by the animal's claws, but the koala was shortly picked up by wildlife rescue services.

After being rescued by Tugwell, the koala was released into a forest by wildlife rescue services. Nadia Tugwell / AP

The koala was released into a forest far from any major roads, according to the Associated Press.