A koala shot at least seven times and left for dead has been rescued after surviving a week on his own, and was due to undergo surgery to remove pellets lodged throughout his body and in his skull.
The koala, nicknamed "Fleet" by those who found him high in a tree near the northeastern Australian city of Brisbane, may still not make it as he is battling severe infection from his wounds, the Brisbane Times reports.
It is believed that the 6-year-old koala was shot up to a week ago.
The paper quotes veterinarian Amber Gillett as saying:
“Fleet has one pellet lodged in his skull, lower back and behind his ear as well as one pellet in each limb which could indicate that he was deliberately shot from all angles."
Not to mention illegal — koalas are protected in Australia, with population numbers declining owing mainly to the encroachment of humans — and their houses, pets and habits — on natural koala habitats.
Australian Zoo Rescue manager Brian Coulter reportedly found Fleet after a tip off from Moreton Bay Koala Rescue.
He remains in the intensive care unit of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, part of the animal sanctuary and theme park founded by the late Steve Irwin.
Gillett no doubt spoke for all Australians who care about the survival — and wellbeing — of Australia's native animals.
"I am ... concerned that this is the fourth koala in two years that has been presented to me at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital suffering from shot gun wounds,” she said.
“I am stunned to see this kind of animal cruelty, and cannot begin to fathom why somebody would want to shoot a koala that poses no threat to them.
“Koala populations are already in serious decline in southeast Queensland and incidents such as these add unnecessary pressure to a species already struggling to survive.”
Australia Zoo — which has more than 50 koalas undergoing treatment in its wildlife hospital — features the work of animal welfare workers — and a lot of cute pictures — on its website.
Senior Sergeant Pat Howard told the ABC Friday that the police would work with officers from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals to try to find those responsible.
"Police take this type of offence quite seriously so we're asking anyone with any sort of information to come forward," he said.
"We want to ensure the matter is investigated thoroughly."