Lewis the koala, who drew huge global attention when he was rescued from Australia’s horrific bushfires last week, has sadly died after veterinary surgeons deemed his burns were too severe to improve.
The koala, nicknamed Ellenborough Lewis, was flown to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital last week after he was rescued from one of the several wildfires that have engulfed the state of New South Wales, Australia.
I know there is a lot going on in the world but I’m gutted by the news that Lewis the koala – who was rescued from the Australian bush fires – has sadly died from the injuries he sustained ?? pic.twitter.com/CiNKOwQFVN
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) November 26, 2019
The koala hospital said they made the very difficult decision to euthanize Lewis on Tuesday after surgeons inspected his horrific burns, which were deemed too bad to improve.
The hospital wrote:
“Today we made the decision to put Ellenborough Lewis to sleep. We placed him under general anesthesia 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.”
The hospital had previously warned that there was a possibility of ending Lewis’ life after veterinary doctors stated that the koala’s “injuries and his pain are not treatable and tolerable.”
Lewis and his daring rescue went viral last week after incredible footage emerged of a woman running into an intense brushfire to save him. The viral video showed the badly burned koala with large patches of fur missing, running from the fires before the woman, Toni Doherty, saved him. She poured bottles of water on him and wrapped him in a blanket.
Doherty later told 9 News:
“The poor koala, he was crying and screaming, because he was being burnt. He was burning underneath, on his little back legs… I’ve never heard a koala before. I didn’t realise they could cry out. It was just so heart-rendering.”
Lewis’ death comes as some experts warn that anywhere from several hundred to over one thousand koalas have died in the fires sweeping over New South Wales and Queensland over the last two months.
In Port Macquarie alone, it is estimated that 350 koalas have died out of a population of 600.
Christine Adams-Hosking, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, told National Geographic:
“They’re such helpless little things.
A bird can fly, a kangaroo can hop very fast, but koalas are so slow. They basically just get stuck where they are.”
Last week it was reported that the koala population is “functionally extinct” due to the difficulties of the species recovering from the fire. This was according to Deborah Tabart, the chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation.
Other koala experts, along with The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital disagreed with Tabart’s assessment stating that the comments were far too alarmist.
Wildlife conservationist Chris Johnson said:
“We’re not going to see koalas go extinct this fast.
Koala populations will continue to decline because of lots of interacting reasons, but we’re not at the point where one event could take them out.”
Ellenborough Lewis, the koala that was saved from a New South Wales bushfire by a woman, has been put to sleep in a hospital due to his extensive burns on November 26, 2019.#ThaiPBSWorld #RIPLewis pic.twitter.com/6x7YLOCp7B
— Thai PBS World (@ThaiPBSWorld) November 26, 2019
While the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s assistant clinical director Scott Castle said:
“Koalas are not functionally extinct across Australia. In the regions that have been fire-affected we won’t know the full extent to changes in population dynamic until they are properly surveyed.
It’s far too broad to say they are functionally extinct.”