A wildlife rescue shelter in Australia is working to educate the public on an important way to help koala bears without accidentally causing them harm.
Arnie the koala bear has become one of the many faces of wildlife that have been displaced, destroyed, or left in critical condition as the Australian bushfires continue to rage.
Arnie was rescued by a good Samaritan from an area near Victoria’s East Gippsland, Daily Mail Australia reported.
Arnie’s situation initially seemed optimistic, as he suffered only minor burns to his hands and feet.
But sadly, Arnie the koala bear died from a health complication that had nothing to do with his singed fur or burned feet.
Arnie died from aspiration pneumonia, the result of a seemingly kind deed at the hands of the person who rescued him.
Animalia Wildlife Shelter explained that a simple drink from a water bottle can be fatal to a koala bear, just as it was for Arnie.
The shelter explained that it is not natural for koalas to drink much water at all, as they get the hydration they need from the plants they eat.
If and when the koalas do drink, however, they lap it slowly with their tongues, heads down as they drink. Therefore, water from a bottle can be a silent killer for the creatures.
“Arnie survived the heat wave AND fires with only minor burns to his feet and hands,” Animala Wildlife Shelter posted on Facebook. “His burns were healing. He survived losing his mum and the loss of his home.”
“He was found by some very caring people who did what any human would do when they find a distressed animal, and offered him a drink from their bottle of water.
“They were just trying to help. They didn’t know that it is dangerous for Koala’s to drink this way.”
The organization explained that when a koala holds its head up to consume water, it can trigger a series of medical complications that can be life-threatening.
“They didn’t know that when a Koala holds it head up and takes in too much water, it can easily get in to their lungs and cause Aspiration Pneumonia, which is usually fatal. This is exactly what happened to little Arnie,” the organization wrote.
“Despite a mammoth rescue effort involving all three emergency services and wildlife rescuers he died … more specifically he drowned. It was heartbreaking for everyone involved.”
— CHARITY.com™ (@CharityDotCom) January 12, 2020
With so many koalas still in danger of losing their homes and lives, Animalia Wildlife Shelter wants people to know to only offer koalas water from a source that will allow it to drink with its head down.
Michelle Thomas, owner of Animalia Wildlife Shelter, hopes the information will help good Samaritans keep koala bears safe.
“We’re not saying don’t give them a drink, we’re saying don’t pour it — it needs to be in a bowl,” Thomas told the Daily Mail. “It is completely safe for them to have water out of a bowl.”
Thomas hopes people will not feel ashamed if they have made this mistake already, but that they will help spread correct information moving forward.
Allow koalas to lap water at their own pace and do not pour water into their mouths.
“With all the videos going viral of people giving them water from their bottles, the koalas have an added risk, during an already dangerous time!” Animalia Wildlife Shelter wrote.
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