Not all heroes wear capes. Some are armed with bottled water and a brave heart. Motorist Toni Doherty went out of her car to save a crying and screaming koala from a bushfire ravaging South Australia for the past few weeks. The courageous Doherty did not waste any second to rescue the poor marsupial from being consumed in flames.
The video of Doherty’s rescue mission was both touching and sad. As Toni pursues the scared koala, you can hear the burnt animal squealing in pain. “It was terrifying to see him just come out of the flames, and he looked so defenseless running along the road,” Doherty said in an interview with CNN.
“I knew I needed to put something around as I ran to the tree, so I just took off my shirt and covered him with it. I just tried to get him out of the fire, it was so hot and so frightening.”
Lewis, the name Doherty gave for the koala she rescued, came from one of her seven grandchildren. Lewis is the “luckiest of the unlucky ones,” barely surviving the fate of 350 koalas that have been killed by the disastrous bushfire. His feet were completely burnt. The poor koala’s chest and stomach were scorched. Lewis exclaims in agony, even in the slightest movement.
After receiving preliminary treatment, his caretakers wrapped him in a soft blanket and hooked up an oxygen mask to aid the animal’s breathing. They even left him with branches of eucalyptus in case he got hungry. But Lewis’ recovery is going to be an uphill battle. The hospital said that he has a 50:50 chance of survival. And even if he pushes through his critical condition, his singed body will still need time to heal.
Lewis and Doherty reunited at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Their story became global, captivating people from all over the world. Doherty saw the bandages on Lewis’ paws while resting on a basket covered in bundles of blankets.
When asked why Doherty risked her life to save the injured Koala, the grandmother of seven replied adamantly. “It was just natural instinct . . . I knew that if we didn’t get him down on the tree, then he would be up there amongst the flames,” she said.
This year, Australia is experiencing the worst drought in decades with soaring temperatures and strong winds amplifying the coverage of bushfires. However, summer has not yet arrived. People are expecting the catastrophe to get worse.
Over 100 schools have already closed in districts affected by the fire, such as Mount Lofty Ranges and Mid North, Adelaide. “Any fire that starts will be extremely difficult to control, and homes are not built to withstand fires in these conditions,” said Adam Morgan of South Australia Bureau of Meteorology. Australia’s summer officially starts on the first day of December, but the country is already experiencing record-breaking temperatures.
Lewis is among the five koalas rescued in the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. If it weren’t for Doherty, Lewis would have been part of the body count—one-thirds of the Koala population consumed in the bushfire in Port Macquarie alone. “The woman’s a legend! Just a legend!—No other word for it.” Cheyne Flanagan, a staff of the hospital, told Nine News Australia.
Even if the hospital is successful in nursing Lewis back to health, it is still impossible for him to return to the wild. Instead, the little guy will join the breeding program where a mate is eagerly waiting for his company.
Witness Doherty’s brave act by watching the video below from Nine News Australia: