Bouncing back from bushfire: koala Jeremy's year of living dangerously

Three-year-old Jeremy suffered second-degree burns in the Adelaide Hills bushfires, was hit by a car and attacked by a dog – but he lives to fight another day

You’d struggle to think of a more pathetic figure – a koala on an operating table, eyes closed and face-down in a scratchy towel, four paws immersed in containers of sodium chloride.

Jeremy the koala became a figurehead for the victims of the Adelaide Hills bushfires in early January after a photo of him receiving treatment for dehydration and second-degree burns went viral.

Slow-moving koalas were among the victims of the bushfires that raged through South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales last summer, prompting the International Fund for Animal Welfare to appeal for donations of cotton mittens to protect their scalded paws.

Three-year-old Jeremy – named after Country Fire Service volunteer Jeremy Sparrow, who rescued him – was in a perilous state when he was found on Tilmouth Road in Paracombe, South Australia, weighing just 10.8kg.

He was released into the wild in late January, following three weeks’ treatment at the Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organisation clinic at Torrens Island, during which he gained nearly a kilogram.

The organisation’s president, Aaron Machado, describing the koala’s appetite, said Jeremy would “absolutely smash his leaf every night”.

As though second-degree burns and internet infamy weren’t trauma enough for one year, Jeremy was struck by a car and attacked by a dog in late August.

A local landholder reported seeing a very large, injured male koala and an examination of his ear tag at Greencross Vets in Paradise revealed it to be Jeremy.

Adelaide Hills bushfire
A small fire burns after a bushfire moved through the area near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills on January 5, 2015. Photograph: Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

He had travelled about four kilometres from where he was released in January, weighed an enormous 12kg, and – aside from severe bruising from the car and a few puncture wounds from the dog – was in excellent condition.

He underwent surgery and spent 10 days in care before being rereleased.

Kim Thompson of Fauna Rescue of South Australia said koalas in South Australia faced such challenges daily, but were particularly vulnerable during the spring and summer when they were actively pursuing mates.

It is unclear how Jeremy has fared on the dating scene. Thompson said koalas were solitary animals who came together specifically to mate.

“Unless we saw them in the tree, we wouldn’t really know,” he said.

“I’m sure that being such a robust and handsome boy, he wouldn’t have any trouble in that department. That’s my opinion, anyway.”

Thompson said Jeremy had often been spotted in the Houghton area after his initial release.

“When he was first released, we were able to see him on a regular basis – all of the locals would say, ‘Oh, we’ve seen Jeremy’, and send me photos. But then we actually lost touch with him.”

He said Jeremy’s journey demonstrated the strong working relationship between the local community and various not-for-profit organisations that work to assist native wildlife.

Machado said stints in and out of care such as those that have dominated Jeremy’s year were part of the realities of being a koala.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s his life, I guess,” he said.

• If you need assistance with a native animal in Australia call Native Animal Rescue on 08 9249 3434

Contributor

Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Koala mittens needed to help bushfire victims with burnt paws
Animal welfare group provides sewing pattern for people to knit their own as it braces for flood of animals injured in recent bushfires in Australia

Guardian staff

08, Jan, 2015 @11:52 PM

Article image
South Australia bushfire recovery: Jeremy the koala released into the wild
The furry face of the toll taken on wildlife by January’s Adelaide Hills bushfire is back on his home range after recovering from burns and dehydration

Oliver Milman

29, Jan, 2015 @6:18 AM

Article image
No vintage: Australian vineyards dump grape harvest as bushfire smoke takes its toll
The entire 2020 crop has been lost in some parts of Hunter Valley and Adelaide Hills wine regions, while many growers are picking only a fraction of their fruit

Royce Kurmelovs

07, Feb, 2020 @7:00 PM

Article image
South Australia bushfire: record temperatures fuel blaze near Adelaide
Authorities issue warning for Inman Valley as weather bureau says sustained mid-30s heat ‘has never ever happened before in April’

Guardian staff and wires

08, Apr, 2018 @5:09 AM

Article image
Kangaroo Island bushfires: grave fears for unique wildlife after estimated 25,000 koalas killed
Greatest concerns for endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart and glossy black-cockatoo after third of island burned

Graham Readfearn

07, Jan, 2020 @3:49 AM

Article image
SA premier says 72 homes destroyed in Cudlee Creek fire as NSW blazes rage on – as it happened
PM says link between extreme weather and climate change won’t change policy. Victoria and SA still under bushfire threat as NSW surveys damage. This liveblog is now closed

Josh Taylor and Amy Remeikis

22, Dec, 2019 @6:59 AM

Article image
Kangaroo pouches, koala mittens: knitters unite to aid animals in Australia fires
Volunteers worldwide create shelters for wildlife such as marsupials that need pouches to grow

Kari Paul

08, Jan, 2020 @12:40 AM

Article image
Macquarie Marshes bushfire burns 3,000 hectares of internationally recognised wetland
Expert fears for long-term viability of Ramsar-listed wetland after fire sweeps through crucial bird habitat

Graham Readfearn

28, Oct, 2019 @3:06 AM

Article image
Nation counts cost of Australian blazes after communities devastated – as it happened
Residents in South Australia and New South Wales wait to discover the extent of devastation from the weekend’s blazes. This blog is now closed

Josh Taylor, Amy Corderoy and Calla Wahlquist

23, Dec, 2019 @7:23 AM

Article image
Bushfires: Victorian towns put on high alert for two out-of-control blazes
Blazes threatening to approach homes near Bendigo and Nhill and emergency alert issued for Kyneton, north of Melbourne

Calla Wahlquist

07, Jan, 2015 @8:59 AM