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'Living among the dead': Sad truth behind that viral photo of 'crying' koala

An image of a lone koala sitting by a dead one on Kangaroo Island has gone viral, with many news outlets reporting the marsupial sitting on the ground with its head in its paws was grieving the loss of its mate.

Kelly Donithan, from the Humane Society International (HSI) Disaster Response team, was photographed rescuing the koala and said the truth behind the images was more heartbreaking than reported.

Due to the excessive number of wildlife deaths on Kangaroo Island, it’s not a rare sight to see the charred bodies of animals littering the area.

The viral photo of an injured koala sitting beside a dead one on South Australia's Kangaroo Island.
An injured koala sits beside a dead one on Kangaroo Island before being rescued on January 15. Source: Getty

“The wildlife death toll is so high that those who survive are living among the dead,” the HSI Australia shared on social media.

Although HSI told Yahoo News Australia it was not uncommon to find a live koala carrying a deceased joey still in its pouch, koalas were solitary animals and unlike our other Aussie mascot, the kangaroo, they don’t live in packs or “mobs”.

A third of Kangaroo Island was destroyed in catastrophic bushfires that also claimed the lives of two locals and because of the sheer number of animal casualties on the island, it’s not uncommon to find injured animals near the bodies of those who didn’t make it.

Humane Society International disaster response expert Kelly Donithan rescues a surviving koala from the Kangaroo Island fires
Humane Society International disaster response expert Kelly Donithan rescued the lone koala found next to the corpse. Source: Getty Images

“The survivors have little to no energy reserves left and we are finding them sitting on the ground totally shut down – all too often with other corpses nearby,” HSI disaster response expert Ms Donithan told Yahoo News Australia.

The charred forest floor on Kangaroo Island is now littered with corpses of animals incinerated by the blazes that swept through two weeks ago.

It’s currently unknown how many of the 50,000 koalas living on Kangaroo Island have been either killed or severely injured in the recent bushfires, but the South Australian government announced on Sunday 32,000 wildlife and livestock have been killed in the blazes.

A koala from Kangaroo island rescued with the help of Humane Society International. Pictured left being carried by a rescuer and on the right in a washing basket.
It's not uncommon to find survivors next to charred corpses on Kangaroo Island, but the HSI is on the ground rescuing wildlife like this little female koala. Source: Getty

“The image of the koala by the water near the body of another koala is particularly heartbreaking. Sadly, this is the reality on the ground on Kangaroo Island,” Ms Donithan said.

The positive news for this koala is she is now receiving the care she needs.

“We did manage to rescue this koala and she is doing well in the emergency rehab at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park,” Ms Donithan said.

To donate to the Humane Society International Australia, click here.

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