The terribly scorched koala that was rescued by a heroic woman from a NSW bushfire faces an “uncertain future”.
Ellenborough Lewis has been receiving “round the clock” care since local resident Toni Doherty plucked him from a dangerous blaze near Port Macquarie last week. Doherty took the badly injured koala 49 kilometres to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital where he was named after Toni’s grandson and taken into home care.
Sharing an update on Lewis’ condition on Facebook on Sunday, the hospital wrote: ”Lewis at the moment is in the category of ‘prognosis guarded’ as in we are uncertain of his future.
“He has burns to his hands, feet, arms and the inside of his legs. He is receiving substantial pain relief.”
Although it is still early days, the hospital stated things could get worse for Lewis.
“If we feel that his injuries and his pain are not treatable and tolerable, we will put him to sleep as this will be the kindest thing to do.
“At the Koala Hospital we do not keep koalas alive ‘to save their lives’ if this means pain and discomfort that is too much. We are all about animal welfare first and foremost.”
Footage of Lewis’ ordeal went viral last week when Doherty found him struggling to escape a bushfire near Long Flat in New South Wales. She took the shirt off her own back and risked her safety by entering the blaze to save Lewis by wrapping the whimpering animal in her top and pouring water over it.
“It was terrifying to see him just come out of the flames and he looked so defenceless running along the road,” Doherty told Nine News.
“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.”
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital Clinical director Cheyne Flanagan said the koala had been put on fluids and oxygen and was “probably the worst one” they had in their care.
“He’s got, what we call, partial thickness burns and there’s one little spot of full thickness. So he’s got really badly burnt hands and feet, he’s got burns under his arms, his nose is burnt and a bit of his private parts are burnt as well, and he is singed all over,” she said.
The country’s koala population has been a major victim of the flames, with more than 350 of the marsupials feared killed in a major habitat. Warmer weather brought by climate change threatens to worsen conditions for koalas, as deforestation has narrowed habitable areas, said James Tremain of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales.
“Devastating bushfires are going to knock out some of these key population centres, but so will increasing temperatures,” he said, by affecting the nutrition value of the leaves that are the animals’ sole food source.
A GoFundMe page for the koala hospital was launched on October 31 and has tremendously exceeded its $25,000 target, with over $1 million of donations recorded on its page.
“We’re closing the original GoFundMe site tomorrow because we’ve more than exceeded our target and we don’t want to be greedy,” Ashton told HuffPost Australia last week.