'I didn't realise koalas could cry': Brave woman who rescued animal from bushfire opens up

By Charlie Duffield

A brave Australian who risked her life to save a helpless koala bear who was engulfed in flames in a bushfire has opened up about the incident, joking she was “glad she was wearing a good bra” for the impromptu rescue mission.

Toni Doherty was caught on camera running into an unmanageable bushfire in the New South Wales town of Long Flat to save the hurt marsupial.

The koala had patches of fur missing and appeared to be limping nearby the fires, before Mrs Doherty doused him in bottles of water to try and cool him down, and wrapped him up in her shirt.

She shared her story on Channel Nine’s Today show, saying she had been scared the animal would run straight into the flames.

The koala bear Ellenborough Lewis was saved from the flames (Photo: Yahoo News Australia)
The koala bear Ellenborough Lewis was saved from the flames (Photo: Yahoo News Australia)

Mrs Doherty, who has since named the koala Lewis after her grandson, explained: 'It was vulnerable, all I could think to do was to try and rescue him.’

'We just jumped out and I knew I needed to put something around him as I ran to the tree so I just took off my shirt and covered him with it and tried to get him out of the fire.'

She recalled feeling the heat radiating off the koala as he screeched in pain.

'He was being burnt. He was burning underneath, on his little back legs when he was approaching the tree, I've never heard a koala before, I didn't realise they could cry out,' she said.

Thinking on her feet, she was eager to rescue the koala as soon as possible, so took off her shirt and ran in her bra to fetch him

Koalas have been vulnerable to the bushfires spreading through several states in Australia (Photo:Getty)

Read more: Hundreds of koalas feared dead in Australian wildfires

Mrs Doherty recalled how there was an ‘instant reaction’ when she saved him from the raging fire, saying they shared a special bond.

However, the marsupial now has a long road to recovery; he has been munching on leaves and is doing 'as well as can be expected’.

The severe burns to his feet, chest and stomach were tended to at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie. In October, the hospital set up a Go Fund Me page to help the rising numbers of koalas at risk due to Australia’s recent bushfires.

Although Lewis has been bandaged and given antibiotics, he requires constant attention in order to survive, and is currently being cared for at a home away from the hospital.

Meanwhile, Mrs Doherty has been branded a hero.

A young koala bear watches between eucalyptus leaves in a zoo in Duisburg, Germany, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Almost 350 koala bears are thought to have died in the recent Australian bushfires (Photo: AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Read more: Koala-detection dog helping to sniff out victims of Australia bushfires

Almost 350 koala bears are thought to have died in the recent Australian bushfires burning in NSW and Queensland.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been overrun with injured animals who have lost their habitat in the flames.

From Thursday over 50 fires were burning in NSW with total fire bans in multiple regions such as the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

Almost 70 fires are endlessly raging across Queensland.

The state of Victoria has a complete fire ban in place across the state, and declared Code Red conditions.

Injured animals should be seen to immediately and taken to see a vet.

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