The people who tried to help a koala before it died from minor burns in a bushfire may have done more harm than good, a wildlife shelter has said.
Many animals have perished in the flames as a result of the bushfires, while others will die of starvation after their habitats were completely decimated.
Experts have said a billion animals may have died this bushfire season, and the loss of native wildlife has not only devastated people across the world.
Important to understand how koalas get their water, says shelter
Animalia Wildlife Shelter, in the state of Melbourne, provides a temporary home for wildlife that needs care – and it has now warned people’s kindness and compassion towards koalas could be killing them.
“With all the Facebook posts about wonderful people caring for wildlife amidst the fire and heat disasters over these past weeks a silent tragedy is happening,” the certified wildlife shelter wrote on Facebook.
“Koala's are DYING because people are trying their best to help but don't understand how a koala actually drinks.”
The shelter explained Arnie, a little koala from a town just north of Bairnsdale, survived the heat and the fires, and minor burns to his hands and feet were healing.
But he later died after he was fed the wrong way.
“When an animal is first offered water they do want to drink it,” Michelle Thomas, one of the co-founders of Animalia Wildlife Shelter, told Yahoo News Australia.
“They want to really want to try and drink it fast, but it’s really important at that point in time that they drink it slowly.”
Ms Thomas said when wildlife carers are offering water to koalas in times of crisis, it is usually out of a 3mm syringe, just to wet their mouth.
“He survived losing his mum and the loss of his home,” the shelter said. “He was found by some very caring people who did what any human would do when they find a distressed animal, and offered him a drink from their bottle of water.”
The kind people who found the koala, and many people across the country who have been snapped giving water to koalas from bottles, didn’t realise this is actually very dangerous for koalas.
“When a Koala holds it head up and takes in too much water, it can easily get in to their lungs and cause Aspiration Pneumonia, which is usually fatal,” the Facebook said, stating this is what happened to Arnie.
Ms Thomas told Yahoo News Australia just one drop of water on their lungs can “drown them”.
Koalas get most of their water through the gum leaves they feast on, and on the rare occasion they drink water, the koala does so with their face down, lapping up small amounts with their tongue.
Ms Thomas said the whole point of the Facebook post was not to shame anyone, but to raise awareness.
“The most important thing is the message gets out there, just to do it the right way,” she said, adding that it isn’t just Animalia Wildlife Shelter trying to raise awareness about this.
Ms Thomas added that carers across Victoria have been aware of, and speaking about this, for a while now.