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Endangered koala breaks character, gives firefighter the baby act

In Animal News on February 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm

In an encounter reminiscent of Snow White or some other woodland children’s fare, a wild koala sipped water from a bottle offered to him by a firefighter in the midst of a deadly Australian wildfire. David Tree came upon the koala in an inflamed forest near Mirboo North, approximately 90 miles east of Melbourne.

“It was amazing. He turned around, sat on his bum, and sort of looked at me with [a look] like, put me out of my misery,” Tree told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “I yelled out for a bottle of water. I unscrewed the bottle, tipped it up on his lips, and he just took it naturally. He kept reaching for the bottle, almost like a baby.”

Cuddly babies, however, koalas are not. Nor are they the Australian version of teddy bears come to life. The marsupials are generally quite grumpy, actually, with sharp claws and guttural growls, yes, growls. They’re none too fond of walking, either, and generally keep to the tree tops.

Their inadaptitude to navigating the ground makes koalas especially vulnerable to wildfires. Further accenting the fairy-tale quality of Tree’s koala encounter is the fact that the animals normally drink almost no water, deriving almost all their needed fluids from eucalyptus leaves.

Coleen Wood, manager of the Mountain Ash Wildlife Shelter where the koala was taken for treatment of second- and third-degree burns to his paws, has said that the animal is expected to make a complete recovery.

For information on how to help animals affected by the wildfires, visit the RSPCA Victoria.

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