Fire-injured koala Jessie and her baby’s miracle survival

 

The vets said she had virtually no chance of survival.

A koala we named Jessie had been terribly injured in the bushfires which tore through James Fitzgerald's koala sanctuary, Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust, near Jerangle, two hours south of Canberra.

Koalas Jessie and Amelia were rushed to a vet in Canberra for treatment after they survived a fire near Jerangle. Picture: Tyson Mayr
Koalas Jessie and Amelia were rushed to a vet in Canberra for treatment after they survived a fire near Jerangle. Picture: Tyson Mayr

James' home had burnt down two weeks before we arrived in February. All the sanctuary's sheds, houses, machinery and all the koalas in its care were also destroyed in the blaze.

But there was a chance koalas which had been living out in the sanctuary's bushland had survived. Maybe.

So I accompanied Bear the koala detection dog and Dr Romane Cristescu, Bear's handler and founder of USC Detection Dogs for Conservation, to search for survivors.

Bear the koala detection dog. Picture: Tyson Mayr
Bear the koala detection dog. Picture: Tyson Mayr

The miracle story of our time searching with James was when we discovered a mother still alive, with her young joey in the same tree.

There was nothing for these animals to eat and we were not sure if they would make it through the night. A koala trap was set up to capture the injured koala as it came down at night.

It worked. We got mother and her joey. James named the rescued mother Jessie. We rushed her to a vet in Canberra who said she would not have survived for much longer in the wilderness.

 

Vets treated Jessie and her joey Amelia before their release back into the wild.
Vets treated Jessie and her joey Amelia before their release back into the wild.

 

Jessie’s joey was named Amelia.
Jessie’s joey was named Amelia.

Her body score was basically zero and the experts were expecting her to pass away through the night. She was too weak to even eat. Her joey was in better condition.

A week later, I was notified that Dr Karen Ford had discovered Jessie was pregnant. Koalas have a 30 day gestation period, meaning Jessie must have fell pregnant just days before the fires hit.

I was still prepared for phone call to say she hadn't made it. But Jessie was strong. She made it.

Jessie, her newborn joey and Amelia were released back into the bush after their recovery. Picture: Tyson Mayr
Jessie, her newborn joey and Amelia were released back into the bush after their recovery. Picture: Tyson Mayr

Pregnant Jessie and her joey Amelia were reunited, sharing a very intimate moment that caused everyone to get emotional as they called out for each other and embraced on meeting.

This week a healthy Jessie, her newborn joey and Amelia were released back into the bush at James' sanctuary.
It has been a long road to recovery for them.

Originally published as Fire-injured koala Jessie and her babies' miracle survival

Jessie, her newborn joey and Amelia were released back into the bush after their recovery. Picture: Tyson Mayr
Jessie, her newborn joey and Amelia were released back into the bush after their recovery. Picture: Tyson Mayr


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