Koalas displaced and injured by Australia’s bushfire crisis are being caredfor and housed temporarily at The Australian National University (ANU).

Three of the Snowy Mountain koalas have been named after the American aerialfirefighters tragically killed in the air-tanker crash in southeast NSW lastweek – Ian McBeth, Paul Hudson and Rick DeMorgan Jr. The three koalas werefound in the same region.

ANU researcher Dr Karen Ford, who is an expert in koala nutrition, is runningthe “5-star koala hotel” on campus in Canberra.

“We have 11 koalas at ANU that have come in from the various fire grounds inthe region,” said Dr Ford.

“They just keep arriving. There is nowhere else that has the facilities tohold these animals or this many at the moment.

“There are a couple with burn injuries and the rest have come from completelyburnt habitat and they are quite skinny.”

Dr Ford says the koalas will stay in their purpose-built koala pens for a fewweeks and it is hoped they can be returned to the wild.

“These injured animals have been very stressed. They have gone through abushfire but they are doing well. They are eating well and have calmed down alot,” Dr Ford said.

“We have re-united a mother and joey. We have three koalas named after thevictims of the recent, tragic air tanker crash northeast of Cooma – Ian, Pauland Rick.”

The researcher has warned people not to catch, feed, water or care for koalasbut contact local wildlife agencies if they have concerns or come in contactwith them.

“You need to know something about koalas to feed them, otherwise you canunintentionally starve them,” said Dr Ford.

“Koalas also don’t drink a lot of water and if a koala takes water they may bestressed. If you are not aware of their habits you might not even realise thatyou are not feeding them appropriately.”

Dr Ford has been working alongside local wildlife agencies to receive thekoalas, including the Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust, which named the koalashonouring the Coulson Aviation crash victims.

“We have a long-running relationship with Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust KoalaSanctuary and ordinarily they would have gone there but it was burnt down inthe fires,” Dr Ford said.

“I am really pleased we can help these koalas otherwise I don’t know wherethey would have gone.”

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