Update: On Nov. 26, Australian caregivers made the difficult decision to euthanize Lewis the koala.
Staff from Port Macquarie Koala Hospital wrote on Facebook that veterinarians there had put Lewis under general anesthesia in order to change his bandages and assess his wounds. At that point, they determined that his wounds were too severe and “would not have gotten better,” and they made the decision to put him to sleep.
Imagine driving through a wooded area with a wildfire raging all around you. The instinct, for most of us, would be to move as quickly as possible out of the flames and into safety. But, as Toni Doherty drove through the brush fires around Port Macquarie, Australia, she discovered a heartbreaking sight that compelled her to hit the brakes and jump into action.
She’d seen a koala cross in front of her car, running toward a group of burning trees.
“It was terrifying to see him just come out of the flames and he looked so defenseless running along the road,” Doherty told Australia’s Nine News of the sight that spurred her to jump into action.
Doherty literally took the shirt off her back to wrap up the animal to protect him. Once she got him to safety, she doused him with water to try to minimize the burn damage. The rescue was caught on video, posted on social media and has since gone viral.
Warning: The video might be disturbing to some viewers.
“I’ve never heard a koala before,” Doherty said. “I didn’t realize they could cry out. It was just so heart-rending and I knew I needed to get him out of there as quickly as possible.”
Doherty rushed the koala, which caregivers named Lewis, to the local animal hospital. The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie had been tending to Lewis, who received burns on his feet, chest, stomach, nose and other parts of his body.
At 14 years old, Lewis was an older koala and has a long road of recovery ahead of him. He had been bandaged, given antibiotics and was starting to regain his appetite, according to recent news updates, like this tweet from Australian journalist Lizzie Pearl. As you can see from Pearl’s video of him eating eucalyptus leaves, he was still very vulnerable.
Lewis is around 14 years old … he’s well enough to have a munch on some eucalyptus leaves this morning. Is still suffering some serious burns after being rescued from a bushfire yesterday. 🐨 @9NewsSyd pic.twitter.com/OFzX9PqfeW
— Lizzie Pearl (@lizziepearl) November 19, 2019
Doherty decided to visit her new friend in the hospital to see how he was doing. Caretakers greeted her with hugs and thanks for her quick, heroic actions.
“You’re a legend,” one of the caretakers said as Doherty came into the hospital to visit Lewis. “Give us a hug.”
You can see the whole reunion in the video below, from U.K.’s The Sun.
As for her status a “legend,” Doherty brushes it aside.
“I was so pleased I had something to put over him and to get him out of harm’s way,” she said, “It was a handy top. I’ve washed it. It’s back in the wardrobe.”