(TMU) — An adorable baby koala, or koala joey, will be released back into the wild after being rescued from the brink of death near Australia’s raging bushfires.
Keli the koala weighed less than 10 ounces (275 grams) when he was found in New South Wales (NSW) on September 8 in desperate condition, with most of his fur lost due to a fungal infection.
The joey was lying abandoned on the ground before he was rescued and taken to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, which has been working around the clock since the fire crisis began to cope with the influx of badly injured koalas.
Months later, the koala hospital is proudly releasing new images of Keli showing his amazing recovery.
In a Facebook post, the hospital wrote:
“Just a brighter moment – in all the tragedy in Australia at the moment we wanted to share something good.
Look at Keli today, a whopping 1 kg in weight, the fungal infection has gone and all his fur is regrowing. It’s still early days yet, we will get very excited when he makes 2.5kg.
And it’s time for him to come into the ‘dehumanizing trees ‘ in preparation for release back to the wild.
Release will not happen until the cooler months, and thankfully there is still some good habitat left in selected locations.”
The bushfires devastating Australia have been raging since September, laying waste to wildlife and private property alike. Ecologists from the University of Sydney estimate that roughly 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been killed either directly or indirectly by the horrific inferno that has been sweeping across the country since September.
The number includes about 8,000 koalas that were burnt to death along the mid-north coast of the state, which lies 240 miles north of Sydney.
Last week, federal environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC radio that up to 30 percent of the koalas in the region had been killed, a number equivalent with the amount of their habitat that had been consumed by the fires. The official noted that she’s been hard at work trying to establish corridors and plans to release hospitalized animals. She added:
“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has become a rallying point for those concerned about Australia’s beloved koala population. Since the crisis broke out, a GoFundMe page for the hospital titled Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires has received over $1.6 million USD ($2.3 million AUD)—an all-time record in terms of funds raised for an Australian entity.