Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"C'mere, Mate, You Alright, Buddy?"

Correction : apparently the above photo is by John Vickery and the below clip was vidded by CFA volunteer Braydon Groen

Sam The Koala, from the above clip is now recovering from mild to serious burns

10,000 Native Animals Dead, Injured In Fires
Sam became the most famous koala in the world when firefighter David Tree stopped to give him a drink amid the devastation of the Victoria fires.

The image provided a much-needed picture of hope in a week filled with news of despair. Yesterday Sam was recovering in Mountain Ash Wildlife Shelter.

Carer Jenny Shaw said she suffered burns on her paws and was in a lot of pain, but was on the road to recovery.

She was put on an IV drip and is on antibiotics and pain relief treatment.

"She is lovely - very docile - and she has already got an admirer. A male koala keeps putting his arms around her," Ms Shaw said.

"She will need regular attention and it will be a long road to recovery, but she should be able to be released back into the wild in about five months."

Mr Tree said he was surprised by the reaction to the photograph, which was snapped by a fellow CFA volunteer on a mobile phone.

He said he was in the middle of backburning at Mirboo North when he saw the stricken koala.

"I could see she had sore feet and was in trouble, so I pulled over the fire truck. She just plonked herself down, as if to say 'I'm beat'," he said.

"I offered her a drink and she drank three bottles.

"The most amazing part was when she grabbed my hand. I will never forget that."

While the human toll of the Victorian bushfires is now likely to reach 300, with more than 80 remaining missing today, the animal toll has also been revised up. Way, way up :
More than a million native animals may have perished in Victoria's fire inferno, a wildlife expert says.

Ms Chappell is among those working to rescue the animals and says the extent of the devastation may never be known.

"It (the animal death toll) will be in the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions," Ms Chappell said.

"We are not just talking the animals we are familiar with, there are gliders and all sorts of possums, antechinus (a mouse-like marsupial), bandicoots, birds - there is so much wildlife."

It is feared endangered populations of gliders, owls and lizards may be among the dead.

For those that have survived, the recovery process will be long and slow.

"They have lost their homes too and they are not going to be rebuilt in a year or two years, it is a much longer-term picture," Ms Chappell said.

"You can't reconstruct a forest."

UPDATE : Sam The Koala is reunited with her rescuer, fire fighter David Tree :

"Who knows if she recognised me or not but I would like to think so," Mr Tree said.

"I got a bit choked up because it has been such an emotional week. It was just good to see her doing well.

"This has been a really tough week for everyone so it is good to have one happy ending.

"She was pretty friendly, she gave me a bit of a sniff and we touched noses."

Of course the koala remembered her rescuer. Look at her face, total eye contact.

UPDATE : Sam The Koala is recovering well, and has made a special new friend, Bob :

Colleen Wood from the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter that is caring for Sam and Bob said both koalas were doing well while other animals like possums, kangaroos, and wallabies were also starting to emerge from the debris.

She said Sam had suffered second degree burns to her paws and would take seven to eight months to recover while Bob had three burned paws with third degree burns and should be well enough to return to the bush in about four months.

"They keep putting their arms around each other and giving each other hugs. They really have made friends and it is quite beautiful to see after all this. It's been horrific," said Wood.

"Sam is probably aged between two to four going by her teeth and Bob is about four so they have a muchness with each other."