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Koalas rescued after Australian bush fires

koala December 14, 1997
Web posted at: 4:37 p.m. EST (2137 GMT)

COONABARABRAN, Australia (CNN) -- Volunteers are combing the bush country in northern New South Wales looking for koalas, and other wildlife injured in last week's bush fires.

For the last several days, orphaned and burned koalas have been brought into a makeshift shelter in the spare bedroom of a wildlife rescue coordinator. A zoo in Dubbo is preparing to take about 20 of the most injured animals.

The volunteers from the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service already have found a number of animal remains in the charred forests. But the bush fires, which consumed 70 hectares (173 acres) before being doused by an unexpected rain, aren't expected to permanently damage the koala population.

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  • Wildlife experts say the bush is designed to renew itself after a fire, and that when the forest begins to regenerate, younger, more mobile koalas will quickly return.

    When the fires began, researchers were in the process of conducting a radio tracking survey of the koala population. About 30 koalas were being monitored.

    While those animals lived in an area that escaped the main fire, they did endure -- and survive -- intense heat and smoke. The researchers say their first-of-its-kind survey found that the tree-dwelling koalas escaped by dropping from the trees to the ground. This has never before been documented.

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