Koala rescued from fire in viral video dies, hospital says


NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia (KXAN) — The koala a woman braved brushfire flames to rescue in South Australia has died, the hospital working to treat it confirmed.

Ellenborough Lewis was rescued last week on a highway west of the New South Wales state of Wauchope. The woman who grabbed him with a blanket, Toni Doherty, also gave the 14-year-old koala water before taking him to let someone look over his injuries. He had severe burns on his feet, chest and stomach, according to local media reports.

The Koala Hospital Port Macquarie said it made the decision to euthanize the koala after putting it under anesthesia to assess its burns.

“We recently posted that ‘burn 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 wrote in a Facebook post.

The hospital thanked people for their support and donations.

The video of Ellenborough Lewis brought attention to brushfires in Australia that are damaging the koala habitat. Reports surfaced that because of the fires the species had become “functionally extinct,” which means it is headed toward extinction or no longer plays a role in an ecosystem. However, according to the New York Times, some scientists question the use of that phrase, although many agree koalas are vulnerable and experiencing population declines.

Monday saw rain in the areas of the fires and more is expected Tuesday.

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