Koalas Rescued From Australia's Bushfires Are Finally Getting Released Back Into the Wild

The release is the first step of rehabilitating the animals and environment that suffered in Australia's bushfires.

koala in the wild
A koala affected by the recent bushfires is released back into native bushland following treatment at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. . Photo: Lisa Maree Williams / Stringer via Getty Images

Five koalas that were rescued during Australia’s brutal bushfires were released back into the wild this week.

Sydney's Taronga Zoo released four koalas and a newly-born joey into Kanangra-Boyd National Park in the state of New South Wales. They are the first of 12 koalas to be re-released into the wild after they were rescued.

The release is the first step of rehabilitating the animals and environment that were ravished during Australia’s recent bushfires, which charred more than 2.5 million acres of land.

koala and zookeeper at a rehabilitation center
Zookeeper and koala expert, Nick de Vos, works in the emergency rehabilitation centre for koalas affected by the NSW bushfires at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Fairfax Media/Getty Images

A group called Science for Wildlife is in charge of the re-release, in partnership with San Diego Zoo Global, rescued the koalas from the Blue Mountains and helped them rehabilitate from their burns at Taronga Zoo. All the rescued koalas are expected to be released this week. Their release schedule was expedited because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We have been busy assessing the burnt area that we rescued them from, to establish when the conditions have improved enough that the trees can support them again,” Dr. Kellie Leigh, executive director of Science for Wildlife, said in a statement obtained by The BBC. “The recent rains have helped and there is now plenty of new growth for them to eat, so the time is right.”

zookeeper and koala in the wild
Penny Lenehan Hawser, a ranger and keeper from Australia Zoo, releases a koala affected by the recent bushfires and treated by the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park back into native bushland. Lisa Maree Williams / Stringer via Getty Images

The rescued koalas have been fitted with radio-tracking devices, which will help conservationists to “follow them and find out more about how koalas use the landscape after fire, including where else we might find pockets of surviving koalas,” Leigh said.

The group has been working on the “Blue Mountains Koala Project” for the past few years to help bring the species back to a thriving population.

About 10,000 koalas are estimated to have died during Australia’s last bushfire season.

The species, is in danger of extinction, spurred unusual rescuers to keep them safe. Teenage boys in Australia went out collecting as many injured koalas as they could and took them to a vet to recover from their burns. Even a dog named Bear joined the rescue mission, sniffing out koalas in the charred land.

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