Posted on: November 22, 2019 at 5:16 pm
Last updated: June 1, 2020 at 5:17 pm

It’s spring in Australia and the country is currently suffering devastating wildfires peaking at temperatures above 40OC [1]. Strong winds are moving massive heatwaves from North to South in Victoria, while the sky in Sydney is a yellow-orange fiery glow. So far, four people have been recorded dead, but emergency services and volunteers are working hard to contain the situation.

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Australia’s wildlife species are taking the worst of the bushfires, where over 2.5 million acres of land and vegetation in Australia’s east coast have been burned by fire. Vulnerable species like the country’s native koalas and sloths who are unable to migrate quickly are prone to more harm. While emergency services try to evacuate as many as they can, thousands of animals are getting burned alive in the fires.

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Toni the hero

In one of the most awe-inspiring moments that have gone viral this year, a woman could be seen taking off her shirt to scoop a burning koala from a tree [2].

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Toni Doherty and her husband had been driving past one of the bushfires tearing through Port Macquarie when they spotted a wounded koala running along the road, hurrying to get up to what he thought was safety in a burning tree. Before he could make it to the tree, he sat in a burning shrub only to worsen his injuries.

“It was terrifying to see him just come out of the flames and he looked so defenseless running along the road,” Toni told Today [3].

“I knew I needed to put something around him as I ran to the tree, so I just took off my shirt and covered him with it. I just tried to get him out of the fire, it was so hot and so frightening. ‘ve never heard a koala before. I didn’t realize they could cry out. It was just so heart-rending and I knew I needed to get him out of there as quickly as possible,” she said.

Toni gave the crying animal water from a bottle and poured some of it all over his body to soothe his burns and wounds. Her husband found a blanket at this point and they wrapped up the bleeding animal while the emergency services proceeded to put out the bushfire. 

The koala was taken to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital where he’s currently receiving treatment.

She couldn’t save them all, but she could save one, and she did

Toni named the rescued animal Lewis, after one of her grandchildren. The hospital estimated his age to be about 14 years, and although he’s still in a critical condition, he’s on the right path to recovery.

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Reports from the hospital state that over 350 koalas have been burned in the Port Macquarie fires as 75% of the area is a koala habitat.

“The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and National Parks and Wildlife Service crew leaders, have spent weeks searching for koalas following the devastating bush fires in the Port Macquarie area,” the hospital explains. “To date, 31 koalas have been brought to the hospital from several fire grounds.”

Australians have come to the aid of the native animals, raising over $1,200,000 on a GoFundMe account that was set up by the hospital. 

“He is probably 50-50 at this stage,” a spokesperson from the hospital told 9news. “His feet are completely burnt and he has burns to his chest and stomach. He has been bandaged and given antibiotics but will take a lot of looking after, if he pulls through.”

Toni is reunited with Lewis

The next day, Toni went to the hospital with her husband to check on the poor animal. She was given a heroic welcome by the hospital staff for putting herself at risk to save one of the precious koalas. She was taken to see Lewis in his basket outside. The koala was in a lot of pain, all bandaged-up with tears streaming down his face, but he could feed on his own from a small tree beside him.

The hospital explains that the number of dead and injured koalas would have a devastating impact on the koala population in the area. However, survivors like Lewis would help to repopulate the species. Lewis is so badly-burned that he won’t be able to go back into the wild. When he recovers, he’ll become part of a breeding program to save the species in Port Macquarie.

We wish him a speedy recovery. Fireworks for Toni!

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An international koala hero

Of course, thousands of people from all around the world are thankful to Toni for saving the helpless animal. She’s become a favorite on all social media platforms as several news stations and public figures are sharing her story with their followers.

  1. Ben Doherty. Australia fires: record-breaking temperatures fuel bushfires across the country. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/21/victoria-issued-code-red-bushfire-warning-amid-thunderstorm-asthma-threat. Retrieved 22-11-19
  2. Mary Pygas. Woman Saves Burned and Screaming Koala Using the Shirt off Her Back. Distractify. https://www.distractify.com/p/koala-bushfire-rescue. Retrieved 22-11-19
  3. Tom Livingstone. Koala badly burnt in bushfires reunited with hero grandmother. Today News. https://amp.9news.com.au/article/be828f6e-6216-4062-8fb7-421ca9acf236?ocid=Social-9News&__twitter_impression=true. Retrieved 22-11-19
  4. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. GoFundMe. https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-thirsty-koalas-devastated-by-recent-fires. Retrieved 22-11-19
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Penelope Wilson
Team Writer
Penelope is a writer and health enthusiast with a B.Arts in Language Studies. She is a deeply spiritual person, a relationship expert, a nutrition freak, and a skin-care maverick.

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