Sydney man's plea to parents after heartbreaking koala incident

Today is World Koala Day, but instead of being a day of joy, it’s been one of sadness.

“Teach your children how to behave around native wildlife, to respect it.”

That is the message a Sydney koala rescuer is hoping parents will hear and act upon.

Ricardo Lonza’s voice began to crack as he explained to Yahoo News the reason he was clutching a baby koala that died this morning. He then posted an image of his last moments with the koala to social media, saying: "I held him in my arms and gave him a kiss goodbye."

Close up of Richardo Lonza holding a dead baby koala and kissing it.
Richardo Lonza found baby Laith the koala dead on Wednesday morning. Source: Supplied

Why parents are urged to teach their children about koalas

Just over a week ago, witnesses reported seeing children chasing the 10-month-old koala across at Lynwood Park football oval, in the southwest Sydney suburb of Campbelltown.

He’d been on the back of an adult, likely his mother, but he jumped off and the pair fled in opposite directions. As Ricardo hopped in his car and started his ignition, the situation worsened.

How the koala survived a busy car park

After fleeing the children, the young koala was then seen wandering disorientated and alone through a car park. Concerned he’d be struck by a vehicle, a local woman stopped and wrapped him in a blanket.

As a trained volunteer with Sydney Wildlife Rescue, Ricardo checked the young koala for injuries and searched in vain for his mother.

Three images of Laith the baby koala. Left - Laith in a blanket at night. Middle - Laith eating leaves. Right - Laith looking at the camera.
Hungry Laith put on weight after Ricardo took him into care on April 24. Source: Sydney Wildlife Rescue

A vet later determined he was severely dehydrated, underweight, covered in mites, and had a dark spot in his eye. Despite his ailments, Ricardo had been confident he would survive and named him Laith. In his care, the animal even put on weight, growing from 1.5kg to 1.8kg.

Why he died overnight is still unknown, so a vet is scheduled to pick up his body today.

How can I help koalas?

May 3 is World Koala Day, but instead of being a day of joy, it’s been one of heartbreak. It’s not only Laith who lost his life this week, another mother koala was hit and killed by a vehicle on Sunday. After her body turned cold, rescuers found a tiny baby inside her pouch, but due to its size, it’s unclear whether it will survive.

Koalas are listed as endangered and face a growing list of threats including habitat loss, car strikes and pet attacks. Experts warn they will be extinct in NSW by 2050 without major changes. Here’s how Ricardo suggests you can help:

  • Plant more native trees.

  • Educate your children about respecting wildlife.

  • Protect trees and koala corridors.

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