It is with heavy heart that we report the death of Sam, the koala who became a symbol of hope this year for Australians imperiled by wildfires thanks to an iconic photograph that showed her taking a drink of water from a volunteer firefighter.
Sam was taken to the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson, a town in southeastern Australia, to recover from second- and third-degree burns. Her rescuers expected her to recover, and while at the shelter, she even befriended another injured koala named Bob.
But while Sam was recovering, her rescuers discovered that she was also suffering from another medical problem -- ovarian cysts related to a urogenital chlamydiosis infection.
Sam underwent surgery Thursday to remove the cysts, but the surgery revealed that the disease had progressed to such an advanced stage that the cysts were inoperable and would have caused her great pain. Rather than prolong her suffering, a veterinary surgeon euthanized Sam; she never woke up from surgery.
Urogenital chlamydiosis affects more than half of Australia's koalas and is a leading killer of the species. "The loss of Sam makes it even more imperative that we establish a koala hospital to research diseases" affecting koalas in the state of Victoria, wildlife rescuer Colleen Wood wrote on the website set up to handle Sam's press and monetary donations to the Southern Ash shelter.