Australia — Sam the koala, whose rescue by a firefighter during Victoria’s bushfires made world headlines, is facing a new battle for survival.
Despite making a strong recovery at Victoria’s Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter, Sam the koala – captured in heartwarming photos and video that helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the state’s Country Fire Authority – is now facing a life-threatening illness.
She is expected to undergo surgery this week to treat cysts as a result of urogenital chlamydiosis, a life-threatening disease that can cause infertility, urinary tract infections and blindness,the Herald Sun reports.
Surgeons say Sam, who was plucked from the scorched earth by volunteer David Tree, faces the real risk that she will not survive the operation.
Koalas have low survival rates for abdominal surgery.
Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter spokesman Nic Pullen said the turn of events was extremely distressing.
“Sam was making good progress with her recovery, her burns had healed and she had even developed a strong maternal instinct, taking care of some of the orphaned joeys admitted to the shelter over the past several months, Mr Pullen said today.
The discovery of cysts due to Chlamydia is very upsetting for everyone involved in Sam’s recovery.”
Up to 50 per cent of the koala population is affected by the disease, with past vaccines proving unsuccessful.