ITV News Correspondent tricked into holding 'deadly drop bear' by Australian wildlife park

An ITV News Correspondent is the talk of the town - or island - in Australia after she was pranked by her camera operator and workers at a wildlife park.

Debi Edward was reporting from Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park which had said it was becoming "overwhelmed" by injured koalas following the devastating bushfires which have burnt huge swathes of Australia.

Experts say at least half of the 60,000 koalas on the island have been killed.

Across Australia at least 27 people have been died and thousands of homes destroyed by the fires.

Whilst filming at the park, Edward was told she was about to hold an extremely dangerous drop bear, a lethal cousin of koalas.

She was made to put on protective clothing and goggles to hold what was actually a koala.

No one else was wearing protective clothing. Credit: Facebook/Sean Mulcahy

Unbeknown to Edward, there is no such thing as a drop bear, it's a well-known hoax about a predatory, carnivorous version of docile koalas which lurk in trees and then drop on the heads of their prey from above.

Nervously holding the koala, Edward tells the camera : "I've been told this is quite a dangerous bear, it's been known to attack people, it's called a drop bear because they drop out of the trees to attack people."

Army reservist vet Garnett Hall also warns Edward about the drop bear's poisonous fangs.

When the koala begins looking around, Edward becomes visibly worried asking if someone can take the "drop bear" from her as Hall tells her not to move "I'm going to get the dart gun".

It was only when Hall and park owner Garnett Mitchell nonchalantly take the koala from her, that the penny drops for Edward and she realises she has been tricked.

Appearing on Australia's The Today Show, Edward was still laughing at herself, and said she was glad she had brought some light relief to the team at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park who have been battling the blazes and tending to animals day and night.

"That was the only time we saw Sam laughing that day, he'd been up all night battling fires, trying to keep the park safe, trying to keep the animals safe, he was absolutely exhausted," Edward told the TV hosts.

"It was great to be able to see him smile and have a joke and just forget about all of the hardships for a few minutes.

"The guys there at the park are absolutely amazing and I just need to shout out to them this morning and say my heart is going out to them at this time, they're just going through something really awful, a lot of Australia is at the moment, but I just hope this has brought some light to them at this difficult time."

Almost £1 million has been raised to help Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, far-surpassing the £8,000 they initially set out to raise to help them care for the injured animals.