Maryanne the koala released back into the bush, 6 months after rescue from bushfires

Peter Lurker with Maryanne an hour before her release. Source: WWF-Australia

Maryanne was found in Brisbane by local vets after suffering severe injuries during the bushfires. She was dehydrated, underweight and wounded, with burns over her paws. But now, she re-enters the wild after six months in care.

The bushfires season tore through Australia, wiping out 45 million hectares of land and harming the country's wildlife, including the lives of tens of thousands of koalas.

But within all the chaos, a small miracle emerged.

At the beginning of December, RSPCA veterinarian Dr Claire Phillips and koala carer Trudi Timbs were walking through the Wivenhoe Dam wall, near the west of Brisbane, when they heard a sudden sound. It was little Maryanne, a baby koala, rustling in the background.

"It's a miracle we found her at all. If she'd been out there much longer she wouldn't have made it," Dr Phillips said.

Miracle koala
Maryanne at the RSPCA Hospital.
WWF-Australia

Maryanne, only 12 months old, had survived the horrific bushfires. She was dehydrated and underweight with burns over her paws.

WWF Australia research in Queensland, conducted between the beginning of the bushfires to December, found a minimum of 672 koalas were killed, and the marsupial is said to be "functionally extinct" in the state's Mitchell Grass Downs bioregion.

After being rescued, Maryanne was admitted to the RSPCA wildlife hospital where she received care for her burns, a drip to treat her dehydration and pain relief.

Koalas are usually with their mothers for the first two years of their lives but the fires meant Maryanne has had to grow up quickly.

After receiving care in the hospital, she was placed in the Fernvale home of Koala care. But carers Peter Luker and Trudi Timbs noticed she was shy and reserved at first.

"Then she became quite affectionate. You could pick her up and quite freely check her paws and put the salve on every day," Luker said.

Now six months on, Maryanne is preparing to re-enter the wild near where she was found.

"Everyone thinks you get sad when you release a koala. Actually you don't. This is the reward for what we do. For a carer, this is the pinnacle," Luker said.

Miracle koala
Peter Lurker with Maryanne an hour before her release.
WWF-Australia

She's now got a full bill of health; her wounds are healed, her missing claw has grown back and she is no longer underweight.

WWF-Australia's Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes Darren Grover says Maryanne has been through "trauma and come out the other end like a true Aussie battler."