28 May 2020


Maryanne, the "miracle" koala, has been released, after being nursed back to health. 

Australia's bushfires killed tens of thousands of koalas, but this plucky little youngster defied the odds.

Help koalas like Maryanne recover from the catastrophic bushfires.

Koalas usually stay with their mothers until they're two years old, but Maryanne was just 12 months old and on her own when found on 18 December 2019 near Wivenhoe Dam wall, west of Brisbane.

She was underweight, dehydrated, and suffering with burnt paws after a bushfire swept through the area on 6 December 2019.

RSPCA veterinarian Claire Phillips and koala carer Trudi Timbs stumbled across Maryanne after investigating a rustling noise.

"It's a miracle we found her at all. If she’d been out there much longer she wouldn’t have made it,” said Dr Phillips.

Maryanne was taken to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital, put on a drip, given pain relief and treatment for her burns.

The World Wide Fund for Nature donated funds to RSPCA Queensland to help it deal with the huge influx of wildlife patients, including Maryanne, following the bushfires.

After a few days of emergency treatment in the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital, Maryanne was sent to the Fernvale home of koala carers Peter Luker and Trudi Timbs, where at first the young koala was a bit standoffish.

“Then she became quite affectionate. You could pick her up and quite freely check her paws and put the salve on every day,” Mr Luker said.

After six months in care, Maryanne’s wounds healed, a missing claw grew back, and her weight more than doubled, going from 1.5 kg to a much healthier 3.5 kg.

This week it was time to release Maryanne back to the wild at a spot near where she was found. Watching on were Peter, Trudi, Claire and WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes Darren Grover.

“It’s always a privilege to be able to see the difference WWF’s bushfire response funds can make for wildlife like Maryanne. She has been through trauma and come out the other end like a true Aussie battler,” said Mr Grover.'

“Everyone thinks you get sad when you release a koala. Actually you don’t. This is the reward for what we do. For a carer, this is the pinnacle,” said Mr Luker.

Peter Luker, koala carer, with Maryanne the koala prior to her release to the wild
© WWF-Australia
Maryanne the koala looking down from high up a tree after release back to the wild
© WWF-Australia

Maryanne Oliver, from the Ipswich Koala Protection Society, had the honour of opening the cage. After she raised $20,000 to help koalas in the area, the young koala was named after her.

When the cage door opened, Maryanne bolted to the top of a small ironbark eucalypt, and looked down at the smiling faces below. People who all played a role in her recovery.

Within minutes, she was stretching, scratching and eating leaf. It’s hoped that in the years ahead Maryanne will have offspring of her own and help to repopulate the area.

Darren Grover said WWF has helped more than 40 frontline wildlife organisations as part of its initial bushfire response but there is still a huge rebuilding effort needed to help restore habitat.

He said WWF will soon commence a series of wildlife care and habitat protection “Koala Bounce Back” projects to help this Australian icon recover from the impact of the bushfires and ongoing tree clearing.

Burns on one of Maryanne’s paws, the day she was found
Maryanne on a drip in the RSPCA Qld Wildlife Hospital