Gripping Images Show Mourning Koala Beside Dead Companion In Australia Fires

Josie Harvey

Devastating images have captured the moment a singed koala appears to mourn the death of its companion after a wildfire decimated their Kangaroo Island habitat.

The island, off the coast of South Australia, is a biodiverse haven for wildlife. It’s sometimes described as the Galapagos of Australia. Fires destroyed as much as half of the rich habitat there when they tore through two weeks ago, leaving scores of dead animals in their wake.

In the image, taken on Wednesday, the injured koala sits with its face buried in its chest near a deceased smaller koala. 

An injured Koala sits beside a dead koala on Kangaroo Island before being rescued on Wednesday. The charred forest floor on Kangaroo Island is littered with corpses of animals that died when fires swept through two weeks ago.

Subsequent images show rescuers from the Humane Society International Crisis Response team capturing the surviving marsupial with a towel. Humane Society Australia CEO Erica Martin said in a statement that the group was working to deliver emergency truckloads of water and supplementary feed to keep koalas, kangaroos, wombats and flying foxes alive. 

It has been estimated that more than half of the island’s 50,000 koalas ― the only chlamydia-free population in the country ― may have died in the blazes. Hundreds of thousands of other animals have perished, and endangered and critically endangered species native to the island, such as the glossy black cockatoo and Kangaroo Island dunnart, face real threats of extinction in their range.

Humane Society International Crisis Response specialist Kelly Donithan approaches the injured koala on Kangaroo Island.
The Humane Society International Crisis Response team rescues the injured koala.

The rescuer pictured, global disaster response expert Kelly Donithan, told One Green Planet that these were some of the toughest scenes she’d witnessed as an animal rescuer, saying there were “bodies of charred animals as far as the eye can see.”

“But as we set out each day on search and rescue, we’re still finding animals alive, injured, dazed or traumatised, and it’s such a relief to be able to give them immediate lifesaving assistance.

“We’ve seen kangaroos with devastating burn injuries and dehydrated koalas gasping for water. Amidst all this death, every time we find an animal alive it feels like a miracle.”

Kelly Donithan holds a baby koala she just rescued on Kangaroo Island. She said she'd witnessed some of the
Kelly Donithan checks an injured koala rescued on Kangaroo Island.

Australia’s federal government has pledged...

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