Koala who burned his paws in fires is so happy to finally be safe

Billy was found clinging to a tree in a backyard in Adelaide Hills, Australia, destruction from the fires all around him. It was clear he needed help, and when his rescuers pulled him from the tree he let out a loud cry — then immediately settled down and snuggled up in his carrier, as he seemed to know that help had finally arrived.

Billy was taken in by Lucy and Adam Francis, who work with 1300Koalaz to help rescue and rehabilitate injured koalas. They’ve had their work cut out for them lately, as the wildfires that have been raging across Australia since September have affected almost a billion animals. Billy was no exception and suffered severe burns on all four of his paws. His carers rushed him to a vet where he was bandaged up, and then took him home to start the healing process.

“As his paws were all bandaged he was unable to climb or be in the normal kind of enclosure that we use for koalas in care, so we had to think outside of the box and we made a makeshift enclosure for him in our kitchen so we could be close to him always,” Lucy Francis told The Dodo. “We used a camping mattress for him to sit on, and placed a pillow behind him for him to lean back in as it was difficult for him to sit in a normal koala position. He was clearly in shock, frightened and covered in soot and ash from the fire.”

Being a rather large koala, the couple were worried that it would be difficult to care for Billy.
He seemed quite depressed when he first arrived in their care as he had already been through so much — but from the very beginning, Billy was one of the sweetest, most gentle koalas the couple had ever met.

“When Billy first came to us and might have bitten my husband’s hand had he been a different-tempered koala, he sniffed it and licked it gently instead,” Francis said. “We have a very close relationship with him and he lets us handle him as we need to and clearly trusts us, despite still being very much a wild koala.”

In order to gain his trust, the couple talked quietly to Billy and gently stroked his fur anytime they needed to move him or give him medicine, and they were astounded by how well he handled it all.

From the moment he was rescued, he seemed to know he was in good hands
Even though he was in so much pain, he trusted his new friends to take care of him and do their best to get him healthy again.

“His personality is so gentle and calm, even when we have to rub cream into his blisters and burns, or administer his vitamin mixture — which we’re really sure he hates — it’s like giving a very furry, reluctant child their medicine,” Francis said. “He holds our hands with his back paws when we apply cream to his coccyx burn.”

When Billy was first rescued, he was so weak he couldn’t even feed himself very well, and his carers had to give him extra food and vitamins to help with the healing process. As the days go by, though, Billy is getting stronger and stronger, and the couple can tell he’s becoming so much happier as his health improves.

It will still be a while before Billy is ready to be released back into the wild, but in the meantime, he’s so relieved to be able to relax and heal somewhere safe.

The day he’s finally ready to leave will be such a happy one — but also a little bittersweet.
“We can’t wait to see him fully recover, and release him in a big beautiful gum tree one day — although he will leave a very big Billy-shaped hole in our home and in our hearts,” Francis said.

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