Lewis The Bushfire Rescued Koala Has Sadly Died
The Port Macquarie hospital which has been taking care of koalas rescued from the NSW bushfires has sadly confirmed that Lewis has died from his injuries after his rescue made global headlines.
Lewis first made headlines last week when a heartstopping video emerged of him being rescued from the flames at Long Flat, NSW, about 50 kilometres from Port Macquarie.
The footage showed a woman run into the flames to rescue the koala before she removed her shirt and carried him to safety, giving the badly injured Lewis some water.
The woman, Toni, was praised as a hero for her brave act. She was later reunited with the koala at the hospital and named him Ellenborough Lewis after her grandchild.
Lewis had suffered severe burns to his hands, feet, arms and the inside of his legs and was being given around the clock care but his condition stayed under "guarded prognosis".
Sadly, on Tuesday afternoon, the hospital confirmed it had made the difficult decision to put Lewis to sleep.
"We placed him under general anaesthesia this morning to assess his burns injuries and change the bandages," the hospital said in a statement which has received thousands of comments already.
"We recently posted that "burns injuries can get worse before they get better". In Ellenborough Lewis's case, the burns did get worse, and unfortunately would not have gotten better."
Cash Flows For Koalas
The Port Macquarie Hospital has received millions in donations since the fires started earlier this month.
More than 30,000 people from 60 countries have so far donated.
President of Koala Conservation Australia Sue Ashton said the hospital was overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of the community.
"Little children have emptied money boxes to support us, people have baked and delivered food to the staff and volunteers, mittens, medical and pharmaceuticals and other items have been donated," Ashton told 10 daily.
"In a time of tragedy, this has been greatly appreciated."
The GoFundMe campaign for the koalas was set up just over three weeks ago and has received more than $1.67 million in donations.
GoFundMe told 10 daily it's the highest Australian campaign this year and the second largest in the country since the organisation launched down under in 2016.
The fundraiser initially hoped to raise $25,000 to be able to buy and distribute automatic drinking stations in areas that had been ravaged by fires, for koalas and other wildlife to have access to.
But after the unprecedented number of donations, the hospital promised to establish a new wild koala breeding program with the remaining funds.
Ashton told 10 daily the Koala Ark program would be the first wild koala breeding program in the world and was initially a five to 10-year goal for the hospital.
"The public’s support and donations have allowed us to bring the project forward and we will develop the breeding program in the new year," Ashton said.
"Our initial focus will be on finding suitable land and then developing infrastructures such as roads, fences, drinking stations and feeding facilities."
Meanwhile, the Queensland based Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation has also donated $50,000 to two volunteer rescue groups in the fire zones.
Wildcare Australia in Queensland will receive $30,000, while Koalas in Care NSW will get $20,000 to help care for sick and injured animals.
Dreamworld life sciences general manager Al Mucci told 10 News First that money will hopefully save lives.
“They're in dire straits. So we need to do something now and hopefully this $50,000 goes towards supporting the people on the front line,” he said.
The theme park’s conservation efforts may be one of the last hopes for the marsupials, with the fires only compounding years of drought, habitat loss and widespread disease, that’s devastated native populations.
With hundreds presumed dead in the ongoing fire crisis, the species is now deemed functionally extinct along Australia’s east coast.
Al says his department’s genome bank project is helping to preserve and recover what’s left of the healthy koala population.
“It's a real collaboration to make sure that these animals don't disappear on our watch.”
Traditionally summer is the worst time of year for animal rescues, with increased cases of dehydration and malnourishment.
With volunteer resources stretched to the limit, animal groups say they’re at breaking point.
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