A koala whose viral rescue drew the world’s attention to devastating Australian bushfires has died.
Veterinarians put Ellenborough Lewis to sleep on Tuesday because he couldn’t recover from his injuries, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said in a Facebook post.
“We recently posted that ‘burn injuries can get worse before they get better,'” the hospital wrote. “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.”
Staff put him to sleep after examining the severe burns on the koala’s hands, feet, arms and legs Tuesday morning, the hospital said. He had been receiving round-the-clock care and “substantial pain relief” since his rescue last week.
Bushfires raging through eastern Australia in recent weeks have killed at least six people and destroyed hundreds of homes, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported. Dozens of fires are still burning with no relief in sight. The blazes have also killed hundreds of koalas and laid to waste thousands of acres of habitat that could land the cuddly Aussie icons on the endangered species list.
‘National tragedy’:Australian fires burn through koala colonies, killing hundreds
Video of the rescue shows the disoriented koala wandering onto a road, then back toward the fire before motorist Toni Doherty chases him down and plucks him from a tree. Doherty then douses the animal in water, wraps him in a blanket and takes him to her car, bound for the local koala hospital.
“It was terrifying to see him just come out of the flames,” Doherty told Australia’s 9News. “He looked so defenseless running along the road.”
Doherty named the koala after her grandchild. He was one of at least 30 koalas being treated at Port Macquarie for injuries related to the fires, the hospital said.
Koala supporters have donated more than $1.6 million to a GoFundMe campaign for the hospital, which posted that it received enough supplies to last 10 years.
“We thank you for your ongoing support,” the hospital wrote Tuesday.