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Sam, the koala photographed getting a drink of water from a fireman, is on the road to recovery

February 11, 2009 |  4:12 pm

Cheyenne Tree treats Sam, the koala who was injured in Australia's wildfires and received a now-famous drink of water from firefighter David Tree

The koala who was photographed receiving a drink of water from an Australian firefighter is expected to recover from her injuries.  The koala, a female that animal rescuers think is between 2 and 4 years old, is now called Sam.  She suffered second-degree burns to her paws as a result of Australia's wildfires and it's thought that she'll be fully healed in seven to eight months.

David Tree, the volunteer firefighter of 26 years who gave Sam her now-famous bottle of water, told Reuters:

"You can see how she stops and moves forward and looks at me. It was like a look saying, 'I can't run, I'm weak and sore, put me out of my misery'  ...

"I yelled out for some water and I sat down with her and tipped the water up. It was in my hand and she reached for the bottle, then put her right claw into my left hand which was cold so it must have given her some pain relief and she just left it there. It was just amazing."

Sam is now receiving care at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson, where she's made a special friend -- another injured koala named Bob.

Colleen Wood holds a Koala nicknamed Sam, that was saved from the bushfires in Gippsland and cared at the Mountain Ash Wildlife Center Bob, who suffered third-degree burns to three of his paws, is one of about 20 koalas who've been brought to the Southern Ash shelter in the last few days, according to shelter staff member Colleen Wood. 

Bob and Sam, Wood explained in an interview with Reuters, "keep putting their arms around each other and giving each other hugs. They really have made friends and it is quite beautiful to see after all this. It's been horrific."  From Reuters:

Tree, a volunteer with the Country Fire Authority Victoria, has visited Sam since her rescue and was delighted to see she had found a boyfriend in Bob.

"They've really taken a shine to each other as they are both burned and share the same burned smell," he said.

"My heart goes out to the people in these fires and this was so innocent so people have used this to distract them from all the sad stuff that has gone on. It gives people a bit of hope."

Hundreds of animals, including koalas, opossums, wallabies and kangaroos, have been found and treated by groups such as Southern Ash, Victoria's Statewide Wildlife Rescue Emergency Service, and the RSPCA.  Statewide Wildlife Rescue Emergency Service President Neil Morgan told the Times U.K. that the majority of these animals are suffering from smoke inhalation and burns, and that many of the most severely injured have had to be euthanized.

181 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the wildfires, and  at least 50 more are missing.  The cost of rebuilding Victoria is estimated at $1.3 billion.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Cheyenne Tree treats Sam. Credit: Associated Press. Bottom photo: Colleen Woods holds Sam. Credit: Associated Press

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