"We recently posted that 'burns injuries can get worse before they get better,'" the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said on Facebook. "In Ellenborough Lewis's case, the burns did get worse, and unfortunately would not have gotten better"

By Ashley Boucher
November 26, 2019 01:12 AM
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A koala who captured the hearts of thousands of people around the world after it was saved during the Australian bushfires has sadly died, the hospital where the animal was being treated announced on Monday.

“Today we made the decision to put Ellenborough Lewis to sleep,” the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said in a statement on Facebook.

“We placed him under general anesthesia this morning to assess his burns injuries and change the bandages,” the statement continued. “We recently posted that ‘burns injuries can get worse before they get better.’ In Ellenborough Lewis’s case, the burns did get worse, and unfortunately would not have gotten better.”

The hospital said that their “number one goal is animal welfare, so it was on those grounds that this decision was made.”

The koala, known as Lewis (the Ellenborough in front of his name signifies the area of New South Wales he was from), was saved by Toni Doherty in a dramatic rescue caught on video last week.

In the footage, Doherty ran into the burning bushland from her car, immediately wrapping the koala in the shirt off her own back. After getting the marsupial to safety, she poured water all over the koala to cool its burns before taking him to the Koala Hospital.

Doherty told Australia’s Nine News after saving Lewis, named for one of her grandkids, that the risky move was “instinct.”

“He just went straight into the flames, and I just jumped out of the car and went straight to him,” she said. “I knew if we didn’t get him down from the tree, then he would have been up there amongst the flames.”

At the time of Lewis’ rescue, a spokesperson for the hospital told the outlet that the 14-year-old mammal’s chances appeared “50-50.”

Toni Doherty rescues koala

“His feet are completely burnt and he has burns to his chest and stomach,” the spokesperson said. “He has been bandaged and given antibiotics but will take a lot of looking after, if he pulls through.”

On Saturday, the hospital gave an update on Lewis, saying that he was “receiving substantial pain relief” and was “in home care receiving round the clock care.”

“It’s early days yet for him, and with anyone who suffers burns human or animal, things can often get worse before they get better,” the update continued.

Lewis the Koala

“Lewis at the moment is in the category of ‘prognosis guarded’ as in we are uncertain of his future. If we feel that his injuries and his pain are not treatable and tolerable, we will put him to sleep as this will be the kindest thing to do,” the post said, adding that it is not in the hospital’s practice to keep the animals alive if they are in “pain and discomfort that is too much.”

“We are all about animal welfare first and foremost.”

As many as 350 koalas have died in the fires that have ravaged Australia’s east coast, the Koala Hospital said, burning through much of the area’s prime koala habitat.

Last month, the hospital started a GoFundMe page with hopes of raising $25,000 to help treat koalas who had been rescued from the wildfires — and as of Monday, they’ve raised over $1.6 million.