Social media users mourn popular 'cuddle-loving' Australia wombat

Tonka the wombat Image copyright Billabong Sanctuary
Image caption The park said it was overwhelmed by the public reaction to the loss of the "good-natured" wombat

Hundreds of Australians are paying tribute on social media to a much-loved wombat which died of kidney damage.

Tonka had succumbed to poor health and died over the weekend at the Billabong Sanctuary in Queensland state.

Wombats are not known to be sociable creatures but seven-year-old Tonka was famously fond of cuddles.

His quirky personality was also well-documented on social media where he became a star. He was often photographed with his toy teddy bear.

Hundreds of people have posted on Facebook to mourn Tonka, sharing messages, old photographs and memories they had of the "good-natured" wombat.

Image copyright Facebook: Billabong Sanctuary
Image caption Tonka's keepers said he lived his days without a care in the world, and loved his teddy bear

The park said in a post that it was "overwhelmed" by the huge public response to Tonka's passing.

"Thank you all for your kind words, massive support and shared memories and photos of this very special wombat."

Tonka was hand-reared at the park after his mother was hit by a car. He was diagnosed with depression when it was closed after a cyclone in 2011, but bounced back to health when visitors returned a few months later.

Image copyright Facebook: Billabong Sanctuary
Image caption Keepers from Tonka's home, the Billabong Sanctuary, thanked the public for their support and love

'Jolly, happy boy'

"I didn't even know what a wombat was before I cuddled the lovely Tonka," said Jill Halliday from the United Kingdom, in a comment on the park's official Facebook page.

Ms Halliday, along with a few other users, also shared personal photos taken with the famous wombat.

"I know how sad we feel from meeting him once so it must be awful for everyone at Billabong Sanctuary," she said.

Image copyright Twitter: Sandy Dhaliwal

Other users, like Liz Tynan from Adelaide, gushed about his good temperament.

"I met Tonka, and he was a jolly, happy boy. Very hard to say goodbye to such a lovely little guy," she wrote.

Lisa Howard wrote of his love for belly rubs. "I loved that sweet boy, he was so friendly and loved his belly rubbed."

The grief was similarly shared on Twitter, with many users pouring out support.

"Lucky to have met you, you were the highlight of my visits to Billabong Sanctuary," tweeted Sandy Dhaliwal with a picture.

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