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Viral Alert: Baby Koala ‘Hugging Onto Mum’ During Surgery Draws ‘Awws’ Across The Internet

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The Internet was overloaded with cuteness when a pic snapped of a baby koala holding onto its mother during emergency surgery was shared. Koalas typically enjoy being solitary, but a baby will cleave to their mama up to four months before striking out on their own. The adorable baby nicknamed Phantom, and his mom, Lizzy, had their photo taken by staff at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. After the cuddly duo survived a car accident in Brisbane, they were rushed for immediate medical care. The viral response to the koala family also called attention to the plight of one of Australia’s iconic inhabitants.

An Unbreakable Bond

Koalas are marsupials, so after childbirth, a baby will spend six months inside its mother’s pouch. Until it is old enough to survive on its own, it’s a common sight to see a baby koala holding onto their mom. Koala babies are dependent on their mom, and they do everything together while joined at the hip. Phantom probably hadn’t been out of his mom’s pouch long before tragedy struck.

Koalas usually enjoy hanging out in eucalyptus trees, but a car accident managed to ground the pair. After they were struck on a highway in Brisbane, they were ushered to a hospital in Beerwah, Queensland. Phantom was relatively unharmed, but Lizzy suffered a collapsed lung. While she underwent life-saving surgery, Phantom never left her side.

Chaos For Koalas

The deforestation of the koala’s natural habitat in Australia has forced more of the iconic marsupials to change their behavior. More koalas have been observed on the ground, leaving them at risk for an injury like Phantom and Lizzy’s car accident. Climate change is also a threat to koalas. Drier, hotter weather has caused koalas to drink more water instead of relying on eucalyptus leaves for moisture and nourishment. Overcrowding in dwindling forests has led to koalas fighting for space and resources.

Human activity, predators, and bushfires have all created an environment where koalas are becoming a threatened species. The adorable photo of Phantom and Lizzy was snapped when Lizzy had emergency surgery at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. The wildlife hospital sees about 70 koalas each month, and procedures can cost up to USD $3,900 or $5,000 Australian. Many of the hospital’s injured patients are a result of car accidents or run-ins with domestic animals.

Mama’s Little Baby

The photos of Lizzy and Phantom holding on went viral, with a host of “Awws” across the Internet. Veterinary nurse Jamie-Lynn Nevers commented, “It’s so rewarding to see patients like Lizzy doing well.” A Facebook post sharing the photo of Phantom and Lizzy in surgery received 459 likes 12 comments, and 57 shares. The caption for the captivating creatures read, “Hang in there mum, I’m here for support.” When Marty Fields shared Phantom and Lizzy’s story on his Facebook page, it received 304K likes, 30K comments, and 262K shares. Facebook user, Lauren Shepherd, responded, “What’s even more lovely is the surgeons allowing the baby to cling during surgery and not cause more distress by removing him.”

Another Facebook user, Sarah Sidiropoulos, posted, “Great that she survived it and really amazing that the doctors respected the baby’s needs.” Overall, comments of positivity, love, and profound respect for the veterinarians and the koala’s bond were shared online. After bouncing back from the car accident with a full recovery, Phantom and his mother Lizzy were released back into the wild of Australia. When Phantom and Lizzy were admitted to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, the facility had reached it’s 70,000 patient milestone. The work of conservationists and veterinarians to advocate for the care and protection of koalas and other animals is essential to the future.

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