Lewis, the koala rescued from the Australian bushfires by a kindhearted grandma, has passed away as a result of the injuries he sustained.
The animal became caught up in the raging bushfires of Port Macquarie last week, with grandmother-of-seven Toni Doherty witnessing his plight and literally taking the shirt off her back to rescue him.
Risking her own safety, Toni used her shirt to wrap up the terrified koala, who became trapped as he tried to cross a road. The grandma then used a water bottle to cool its burnt skin and quench its thirst.
Toni’s heroic rescue of Lewis was captured on camera, with the resulting footage having reduced many people to tears. The grandma then took the burnt koala to the nearby Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, a specialist facility currently treating a number of injured koalas.
The hospital was treating Lewis for burns to his hands, feet, arms and the inside of his legs, with Toni able to be reunited with the injured animal at the hospital shortly afterwards. She was held in such high regard that one member of staff called her a ‘legend’ as soon as she arrived.
However, the road to recovery was never anticipated to be an easy one, and the tiny koala had to be fed a single leaf at a time due to the extent of his injuries – with feeding taking up to an hour each time.
Two days ago, November 24, the hospital issued an update on Lewis’ health, describing his prognosis as ‘guarded’ and stating they were ‘uncertain of his future’.
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.
Tragically, Lewis did not make it. A GoFundMe page set up by the hospital said Lewis had sustained ‘significant burns’ across his body and prior to his death, had been receiving round the clock care by one of their long-term home care volunteers.
The hospital made clear that they do not keep koalas alive simply ‘to save their lives’ if it means ‘pain and discomfort that is too much’. They added: ‘We are all about animal welfare first and foremost.’
Writing on Facebook today, November 26, the hospital said:
Today we made the decision to put Ellenborough Lewis to sleep. We placed him under general anaesthesia this morning to assess his burns injuries and change the bandages. 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. The Koala Hospital’s number one goal is animal welfare, so it was on those grounds that this decision was made.
We thank you for your ongoing support.
The hospital said it is currently treating more than 30 koalas for burns and other injuries related to the fires, although staff stress not all will survive.
Rest in peace, Lewis.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).