Lewis the koala, who was rescued from bushfires in Australia, dies from burns


By Nick Whigham and Michael Dahlstrom

The koala who captured the hearts of the world after being rescued from bushfires in Australia last week has been put down.

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Ellenborough Lewis made global headlines when he was dramatically rescued by a brave woman who risked her life after the helpless koala became engulfed in flames.

Footage showed Toni Doherty running into an unmanageable bushfire in the New South Wales town of Long Flat to save the hurt marsupial.

The koala had patches of fur missing and appeared to be limping as the blaze raged through his habitat, before Ms Doherty doused him in bottles of water in a desperate attempt to cool him down before wrapping him up in her shirt.

“He was crying and calling out … It was really distressing,” Ms Doherty told Yahoo News Australia. “I thought he was a brown koala but it was because all his hair and been singed.

“I just didn’t want to bear the thought of him being left there.”

The roughly 14-year-old koala was taken to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital but after spending nearly a week recuperating, had to be put down due to his injuries.

Vets have made the decision to euthanise the koala. Source: Nine News
Vets have made the decision to euthanise the koala. Source: Nine News

Given the full name of Ellenborough Lewis, after the area it was rescued from and the grandchild of Ms Doherty, the Port Macquarie facility announced the sad news on Tuesday afternoon.

“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,” the hospital wrote in a Facebook post.

The vets however had recently warned 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,” it said.

Ms Doherty hopes the story can help the bushfire appeal as crews continue to fight fires across the country days out from summer.

“When I’ve seen it on TV it just doesn’t seem likes it’s me,” she told Yahoo. “But it’s an insight into what’s happening.”

Toni Doherty has been praised for her quick actions in trying to save the koala. Source: Yahoo/Michael Dahlstrom
Toni Doherty has been praised for her quick actions in trying to save the koala. Source: Yahoo/Michael Dahlstrom

In the first hour, the Facebook post announcing the news of Lewis’s death attracted more than 1,400 comments from well wishers, many mourning the passing.

“Without the bravery of his rescuer and the treatment at KHPM he would have died in even more severe pain & suffering somewhere in the burning bush,” wrote one person.

Hundreds of comments were quick to praise Ms Doherty and the staff at the koala hospital for doing everything they could.

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