Against all the odds, she did it: the first female koala admitted to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital during the bushfires in October has been released back to her original home.
Anwen was returned to her home in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve on Thursday, April 2.
She will be one of 26 koalas to be released over the next few days after their original habitats recovered from bushfire damage earlier than expected due to significant rainfall in the area.
The three groups of koalas will be released to Crowdy Bay, and two areas in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve.
But it was the four-year-old Anwen that really captured our hearts when she was admitted into Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's intensive care unit with badly burnt arms suffered from the Lake Innes Nature Reserve/Crestwood bushfire.
Despite her successful treatment, Anwen lay in her basket for months. She was then moved to an external rehabilitation unit where she was found to have chlamydia. This was treated over a number of weeks.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital president Sue Ashton described the release of Anwen as "a heart-warming day for us".
"To be able to release so many of our koalas back to their original habitats, even to their original tree in some cases - makes us very happy," she said.
"Anwen was our first ever female koala to be admitted during the bushfires and her recovery has been extraordinary. It marks a proud moment for Australia; to see our Koala population rebuild, starting to recover from what was such a devastating time."
Staff and volunteers at the Koala Hospital treated 53 injured koalas following the bushfires that ravaged NSW.
Koalas were rescued from burnt areas in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region and beyond - the facility's care and rehabilitation for koalas also expanded to those coming from Taree, the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury. Koalas from these areas have now been returned to their original home area for release.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's group manager economic and cultural development Liesa Davies said the region has a nationally significant population of 2000 koalas and bushfires are one of the top dangers to habitat and lives.
"The work that the staff and volunteers at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital do is amazing at any time but particularly during the bushfires and since they have worked tirelessly, and we would like to say a huge thanks for this," she said.
"The recent days and weeks have presented new and uncertain challenges.
"The way we must live our lives is changing, and the spaces, places and people we love are all experiencing challenging times.
"Occasions like this gives us all reason to hope and look to the future.
"Now is not the time to travel, but we can encourage people to plan to lend support by visiting when it is safe to do so, witnessing the wonderful work the koala hospital does and supporting local business recovery."
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is the only hospital for koalas in the world. It is a popular tourist attraction, scientific research and education centre and a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
Due to the threat of COVID-19 the Koala Hospital is currently closed to visitors.
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