(TMU) — A koala named Arnie who was rescued from a fire in Victoria’s East Gippland suffered only minor burns on his hands and feet. The koala was nursed back to health but sadly later died from aspiration pneumonia.
During the ordeal, Arnie was likely in stress, overheating, and thirsty. His valiant rescuers, not aware that it may cause him harm, understandably offered him water from their own bottle by pouring it into his mouth.
In an effort to create awareness of the potential danger and to prevent additional rescued koalas from suffering the same fate as Arnie, Animalia Wildlife Shelter posted information on social media to warn of the potential danger in giving water to desperate animals.
Writing on Facebook, the charity explained:
“They were just trying to help. They didn’t know that it is dangerous for koalas to drink this way.
They didn’t know that koalas usually get most of their water via the gum leaves that they eat and they don’t often drink water, but when they do, they are face down and lapping small amounts with their tongue.“
Animalia said that when koalas hold their head back to drink from a bottle they can take in too much water. That water can get into their lungs and cause aspiration pneumonia which can be fatal in some cases.
They post continued:
“This is exactly what happened to little Arnie. Despite a mammoth rescue effort involving all three emergency services and wildlife rescuers he died… more specifically he drowned.“
Michelle Thomas, owner of the Animalia Wildlife Shelter in Victoria, emphasized that she does not want to shame nor discourage anyone who is trying to help the wildlife.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Thomas said:
‘’We’re not saying don’t give them a drink, we’re saying don’t pour it—it needs to be in a bowl.
It is completely safe for them to have water out of a bowl.’’
Animalia’s Facebook post further explains:
“If you are nowhere near help then the best way to hydrate koalas is to PLACE A BOWL OF WATER ON THE GROUND OR POUR THE WATER IN TO YOUR HAT/HELMET/CUP ETC AND HOLD NEAR KOALAS MOUTH SO THAT IT CAN LAP AT IT, FACE DOWN.
Please remember that Koalas are arboreal and nocturnal. If you see one sitting on the ground during the day then please contact a wildlife rescue organization.”
Rescuing an animal in distress is a noble thing to do, but it needs to be done correctly to prevent more situations like this occurring in the future. The rescuer would likely be devastated to learn of the animal’s death due to lack of basic, yet essential information. Hopefully Arnie’s death will not have been in vain, as it very well may prevent other koalas from dying for the same reason after rescue.