Fleet the koala, who was shot by a slug gun in October last year, unfortunately lost his battle for life yesterday.
Fleet was brought to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital on Thursday 13 October 2011, with seven pellets littered throughout his body; one pellet lodged in his skull/nasal cavity, lower back and behind his ear as well as one pellet in each limb.
Three pellets located close to the surface were initially removed, but those those that were lodged deeper into Fleet’s skull and body were deemed too high risk to remove and their location did not initially pose a direct risk to his survival.
After two months of treatment, the pellet that was lodged in Fleet’s nasal cavity became infected, and despite strong antibiotic therapy and attempted removal he was unable to beat the infection associated with it.
A CT scan was done to assess the location of the pellet in his nasal cavity and facilitate attempted removal of the pellet in his skull, with the aim to clear up the chronic infection.
Because the bacteria were so resistant to any antibiotics, the only option was to remove the source of infection (the pellet). Fleet had lost a significant amount of body condition in association with the infection.
Surgery proceeded yesterday to remove the pellet, however unfortunately, before completion of the surgery Fleet’s heart stopped, and despite the best efforts of the vets and nurses at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Fleet was unable to be revived.
It is likely that the significant infection associated with the slug gun pellet and Fleet’s subsequent poor body condition contributed to his death.
Vet Amber Gillett said staff at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital worked tirelessly to save the famous little koala.
“From the start the biggest risk to Fleet’s survival was infection. We got it under control in his foot after weeks of antibiotics and debridement on his foot, but his nasal infection did not respond, hence why the decision was made to remove the pellet to eliminate this source of infection,” she said.
“Surgery to remove deeply embedded pellets is risky and is generally not necessary if they don’t pose a direct risk to survival of the patient, hence why these were left where they were to begin with. Once infection sets in however, removal of these pellets can become part of the treatment to help clear up the infection.”
“We are committed to saving every single animal here at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and it is deeply emotional and upsetting to lose one of our patients.
“I am personally deeply saddened by the loss of this koala. Every animal we treat gets a little piece of us and we often feel a personal attachment to them making losing them all the harder.
“It angers me beyond belief that someone could heartlessly shoot and leave for dead one of our protected species, and our national icon. Our koalas are at serious risk of extinction in south east QLD and it is devastating to lose one to such a cowardly act of cruelty.
“In particular though, we are devastated to lose Fleet. He was a fighter and our greatest wish was to return him as a healthy koala into the wild.
“A special mention must be made to all of those people that donated to the Wildlife Hospital to help Fleet’s treatment. Without the support of the public – he would never have stood a chance.
“We still have not caught Fleet’s shooter and his death should send a strong message about the severity of animal cruelty and malicious intent on our native protected wildlife,” Dr Gillett said.
To donate to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, please donate to the link below. www.everydayhero.com.au/event/koala
Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Staff at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital urge the public to call their 24-hr wildlife emergency hotline on 1300 369 652 for any wildlife emergencies.
Background on Fleet
On Thursday 13 October 2011, the Australia Zoo Rescue Unit responded to a call for help from Moreton Bay Koala Rescue Inc. regarding an injured koala in Kippa-ring, north of Brisbane, which had sustained facial injuries of which the cause was unknown.
The male koala named Fleet was assessed by wildlife veterinarian Dr Amber Gillett. Assessment revealed a six year old male koala who sustained injuries consistent with a slug gun. X-rays revealed seven pellets littered throughout his body; one pellet lodged in his skull, lower back and behind his ear as well as one pellet in each limb.
On Thursday 20 October Fleet 2011 underwent further assessment by Dr Amber Gillett, who checked him over and cleaned up his wounds following surgery to remove three pellets.
After many weeks of cleansing and bandaging his infected foot Fleet’s wounds appeared to be slowly but surely healing and he was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit and into an outdoor enclosure at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital to continue his recovery.