After 10 months of medical treatment and rehabilitation, 14 koalas that were badly burned in last summer’s bushfires have been nursed back to health and released back into the bush in eastern Victoria.
- The injured koalas were rescued after bushfires that burned in eastern Victoria in January
- It took months to nurse their wounds before they were moved to special rehabilitation facilities for “rewilding”
- The final eight animals were released into bushland around Mallacoota on the weekend
The koalas were given emergency treatment for severe burns at triage centres in East Gippsland.
Special RAAF jets were used to evacuate some animals for treatment by staff at Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo.
Some of the animals were so badly burned they had to have multiple surgeries and months of follow-up treatment.
When they were well enough, they were transferred to large enclosures on Phillip Island and at Healesville for “rewilding” to help them regain their climbing strength and fitness before being released.
Ten months after being rescued, six of the koalas were released into the bush in East Gippsland, close to where they were found.
On the weekend, the final eight animals were released into regenerated bushland around Mallacoota, where a number of homes were destroyed by fire.
Zoos Victoria’s Jenny Gray told ABC Radio Melbourne that it was a long road to recovery.
“These 14 [koalas] had really bad injuries so they took a lot of hospital treatment and care. Then once they are through that, we need to rebuild their fitness,” Dr Gray said.
In a world first, each animal was fitted with a tracking device to help scientists monitor their progress and improve long-term outcomes for koalas returning to the wild.
“It was such a special moment to see these koalas — who have been through so much — finally returned to the wild,” said Zoos Victoria senior vet Leanne Wicker said.
“It has been a huge undertaking and responsibility for all involved to slowly rehabilitate these koalas, and a real privilege to now be able to bring them back to their homes.”