'Screaming in pain': Koala found with horrifying burns on golf course

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer
·5-min read

WARNING - DISTURBING CONTENT: Authorities are investigating after a koala was found at a Victorian golf course with severe burns and a tar like substance caked on his genitals.

Blow flies were buzzing around the animal, according to a source, when he was spotted near Portland Golf Course’s 18th hole on January 28.

Horrifying images supplied to Yahoo News Australia show a koala on its side with its arm wrapped around its head.

Close up of a koala with its arm around its head and burnt paws. Source: supplied
Carers said a koala rescued at Portland's golf course was badly burnt. Source: supplied

Other photographs show extensive wounds to the koala’s paws, which were described by his rescuer as severe burns.

Koala relocated from Alcoa aluminium smelter

Environment group Friends of the Earth said they believe the koala’s injuries occurred at a smelter, operated by US aluminium processor Alcoa, located 3.6km from where the animal was found.

An Alcoa spokesperson acknowledged a koala was relocated to the golf course the previous day, but said it was not observed suffering from any injuries at the time.

“A koala was relocated from the smelter to the Portland Golf Course,” an Alcoa spokesperson said.

“No injuries to the koala were observed,” they added.

Ambrose the koala wrapped in blankets while in care.
Wildlife Victoria sent Ambrose into the care of a specialised koala carer. Source: Supplied

Koala screaming when first responders arrived

The large male was screaming “in incredible pain”, according to the rescuer who attended the scene.

She arrived at Portland Golf Course with her 16-year-old daughter and the pair of them were left “distressed” by the incident.

“(The koala) was on the ground and there was someone waiting to show me to the tree he was sitting under,” the rescuer said

“It was dark when I grabbed him, so I couldn’t really see the burns on his feet, but when I grabbed him he just screamed out in pain.

“It was heartbreaking to hear.”

Skin peeling from koala’s feet, witness alleges

Alcoa said that a large population of koalas exist in the vicinity of the smelter and they have “safe handling” procedures for the animals.

A spokesperson insisted that koalas found at the site in poor health are taken to the local veterinarian, based on guidance of the Department of Environment (DELWP).

Healthy koalas are relocated to “suitable habitat”, which includes the golf course.

Split screen showing two images of burnt paws.
The koala taken into care was suffering from extensive burns to his paws. Source: Supplied

Wildlife Victoria, the state’s peak wildlife body, confirmed they received a call from a member of public at the golf course asking for help at 8:55pm.

“Wildlife Victoria received a call from a concerned member of public who found the koala on the golf course and contacted our emergency service seeking help,” a Wildlife Victoria spokesperson said.

“We subsequently arranged for a wildlife volunteer with experience with koalas to attend the rescue.”

Worker investigates after seeing koala’s paws ‘burnt’

The member of public who located the koala told Yahoo News Australia he had gone looking for the animal after seeing it removed from the smelter where he had been working the previous day.

The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges that it was clear to him that the koala was severely burnt when it was removed from the facility.

He said that he witnessed the koala climbing up a heating frame inside the large ‘anode section’ of the smelter.

The man reported seeing skin peeling off the animal’s feet, noting “you could see quite clearly it had been burnt”.

Close up of Ambrose the koala with his arm wrapped around his head.
It was hoped 'Ambrose' the koala would survive despite his injuries. Source: Supplied

The man said bystanders were told not to touch the animal and about 30 minutes later it was knocked off the frame and it “dropped about a foot” onto the ground.

A bag was placed over the koala, and it was taken away, according to the alleged witness.

Koala given pain relief but condition fails to improve

Once in care, the koala was given pain relief and his carer stayed up until 3am to attend to him.

“[He] was in incredible pain, he was actually letting out a high pitched screaming noise which is a really eerie, horrible noise,” his carer said.

“It’s just something you don’t want to hear again.

“His fore-paws were incredibly burnt and one paw in particular was more burnt than all the others.

“He just kept continuously licking it and licking it, and hanging his head over.

“There was also a small section of his nose that was burnt as well, it looked like a little crater I suppose.

“He was an incredibly sad, sad, koala.”

The rocky coast at Portland, Victoria.
The koala was found in the Victorian coastal town of Portland, Victoria.

Authorities investigating incident at golf course

Hoping that the koala would survive, he was named Ambrose, which means ‘the immortal one’.

Sadly, his injuries worsened overnight and so his carer consulted with a specialised vet and it was determined that he should be euthanised.

The carer, who does not wish to be named, said she has requested on multiple occasions that Alcoa contact her when koalas wander onto their site, rather than leave them at the golf course.

In a statement issued to Yahoo News Australia, Alcoa said they take their environmental management responsibilities seriously, and reported the relocation of the koala to DELWP.

DELWP confirmed with Yahoo News Australia that they are investigating the incident.

“The Conservation Regulator is aware of the incident involving a koala that was found at a golf course in Portland,” they said.

“The Conservation Regulator is working to understand the circumstances behind this incident.”

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