Desperate koala rescue goes viral as koala hospital fundraising tops one million

Toni and Peter Doherty emerge fro the fire zone with little koala Lewis. Photo: 9News.
Toni and Peter Doherty emerge fro the fire zone with little koala Lewis. Photo: 9News.

THE anguished cries of a koala frantically trying to escape a blazing bushfire make your heart hurt.

What is more amazing is the act of human kindness shown by Toni Doherty who took her own shirt off and risked injuring herself to save the animal from a certain death as fires raged west of Port Macquarie.

The grandmother has been described by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital staff as an absolute legend for taking charge and rescuing the male koala which has now been named Ellenborough Lewis, after her grandchild.

The koala was disoriented by the fire and sustained burns as he attempted to escape the fire.

Toni took the shirt off her back and helped Lewis with bottles of water.

He received emergency treatment for severe burns and is now in the care of Cheyne Flanagan and her team at the Koala Hospital. He has a long road to recovery.

A gofundme page to raise money for the facility has now topped a whopping $1.036 million with donations being received from around the world.

Hundreds of koalas are believed to have been killed by the fires ravaging the Mid-North Coast and across the state with the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital inundated with injured animals in need of help.

Life or death - Toni Doherty took the shirt off her back to wrap Lewis up and take him to the Koala Hospital. Photo: 9News.

Life or death - Toni Doherty took the shirt off her back to wrap Lewis up and take him to the Koala Hospital. Photo: 9News.

The donations will also allow the koala hospital to fast track the introduction of a wild koala breeding program.

Some of the funds will be used to build a facility or "koala ark" to provide a healthy and safe environment.

One of the many koalas being treated at the Koala Hospital. This is Lake Innes Peter. Photo: Rob Dougherty.

One of the many koalas being treated at the Koala Hospital. This is Lake Innes Peter. Photo: Rob Dougherty.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been in discussions with the Forestry Corporation of NSW and an area of land has been identified for the project.

Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton said koalas would be released into the healthy habitat with the hope they would breed to help rebuild the decimated koala population in the region.

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