The koala that become a symbol of Victoria’s bushfire disaster will go on display at the Melbourne Museum from today.
A picture of Sam the koala drinking water from a firefighter’s bottle at Boolarra in Gippsland in the lead-up to Black Saturday became one of the most recognisable images from last year’s devastating fires.
The image became an international phenomenon.
Sales of the photograph raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for bushfire survivors.
The female koala survived the fires but later died from the disease Chlamydia.
Sam’s body has been preserved, and will become part of a bushfire memorial display at the Melbourne Museum.
The Museum’s chief executive, Dr Patrick Greene, says Sam now has a special place in Victoria’s history.
“We’ve already placed in our forest gallery a chimney which was dismantled and brought to the museum from Kinglake as a constant memory of the terrible event last year,” Dr Greene said.
“The community support for that has been tremendous.
“I’m expecting the same will happen for Sam the koala.”
Dr Greene has rebuffed suggestions the preserved koala may not be the real Sam.
He says he has been guaranteed that the koala on display is the same animal as that seen in the iconic picture.
“We’ve been assured of that by the Southern Ash Wildlife Centre and also the rescuing organisation,” Dr Greene said.
“They’re pretty confident it is Sam and there were no other injured koalas found in this vicinity.