Friday, August 21, 2009

Famous Victorian Bushfire Koala, Sam, Dies

By Jennifer Schellington

February 2009 saw a huge natural disaster in Australia - The Victorian Bush Fires. In total, 210 people lost their lives and thousands lost their homes and livelihood. The fires burnt over 400,000 hectares.

There was one ray of hope that united the nation during these difficult times - the rescue of a Koala called Sam. Millions saw the video of Sam being given water from a fire fighter. The Koala had second and third degree burns on its paws but recovered well at South Ash Wildlife Refuge.

There is a disease called "Urogenital Chlamydia" that has affected nearly half of the Koala species. Unfortunately Sam the Koala had been affected by the disease. You may have heard of it as a human sexually transmitted disease and the impacts in Koalas are very similar. The disease leads to urinary tract infections, infertility and even blindness.

Last week Sam was due to have an operation to remove cysts in her abdomen caused by the disease. It was clear however when they started to operate that the disease had spread. Sam was euthanized as it was decided that nothing more good be done for her. It would have left her in too much pain to keep her alive.

David Tree, the Firefighter who rescued the Koala was said to be in floods of tears. The Koala had become a symbol of hope and of course had shown true survival skills. There will be a commemorative plaque erected in Sam's honour in the place where he was given the water by the firefighter.

A native animal to Australia, the Koala is a must see animal on your visit to Australia. You'll see them high up in the Eucalyptus trees if you are lucky. This is their main food supply and actually gives them 90% of their water requirements. It's very rare for them to drink water.

Koala bears carry their young in a pouch, making them a marsupial. Did you know that the baby Koala is called a joey? It is only 2cm long when it is born and will live in its mother's pouch for at least 6 months. It will then spend time in and out of the pouch until it can survive on its own.

Koalas are sadly not as common as Kangaroos so seeing one on your trip is a little tricky. Wildlife parks and Koala sanctuaries are great places to see Koala bears especially as some of these places will in fact let you hold them. There is nothing better than seeing one in its natural habitat in the wild. If you know where to look you have a good chance of seeing one in the wild.

Just don't think about trying to give them a cuddle in the wild. If you disturb them, they can be very vicious. You only need to take a look at their claws to work that out.

For where to see Koalas in Australia and some other fascinating facts visit the Real Australia Travel website (details below) You can also see the video of the Koala Sam drinking water from the fire fighter.

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