'From Heartbreak Comes Hope': Koala Rescuers Share Moving Recovery Stories

Josie Harvey

The baby koala named Maryanne lost her mother and a claw, and suffered severe burns on the pads on her feet when Australia’s wildfires destroyed her southeast Queensland habitat.

Peter Luker, a volunteer firefighter and animal caretaker with the Ipswich Koala Protection Society, has seen horrific things this fire season ― but currently has the pleasure of watching little Maryanne make a full recovery.

In early December, a frustrated Luker shared a graphic photo of a charred koala he’d come across as he helped fight the Wivenhoe Pocket fire to demonstrate the horrors of this fire season. The heartbreaking post went viral and was liked and shared tens of thousands of times.

In the new year, Luker is sharing a more positive story from that same blaze. He and his partner, Trudi Timbs, took on Maryanne after she suffered her injuries a week before Christmas, most likely from walking over hot coals or climbing a burning tree.

Maryanne the koala is one the road to recovery after suffering severe burns on her feet shortly before Christmas.

“It’s like having the palms of your hands burnt off; she would have been in incredible pain,” Luker said.

After first receiving emergency treatment at the RSPCA Queensland Wildlife Hospital, the little joey is on the mend in the care of Luker and Timbs ― and delighting those who have the pleasure of meeting her.

She’ll stay with her caretakers until she’s gained more weight, and after some time in a pre-release area she’ll be released back into the wild.

Firefighter Peter Luker shared this distressing photo of the loss of animal caused by Australia's wildfires, and the image went viral.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF) has so far committed more than $1.1 million for the immediate rescue, care and recovery of wildlife, with RSCPA Queensland one of the first recipients due to the state’s early bushfire season and a subsequent influx of injured animals like Maryanne.

The hospital’s average daily intake is continuing to be around 80 animals a day. 

“That has put a huge strain on the organisation and particularly the people who are working in the wildlife hospital,” said RSPCA Queensland CEO Darren Maier.

The federal government has also pledged $50...

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