SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Firefighter David Tree noticed a koala moving gingerly on scorched paws as his fire patrol passed through the charred landscape of Australia's deadly wildfires.
Clearly in pain, the animal stopped when it saw him.
"It was amazing -- he turned around, sat on his bum and sort of looked at me . . . like, put me out of my misery," Tree said Tuesday. "I yelled out for a bottle of water. I unscrewed the bottle, tipped it up on his lips and he just took it naturally.
"He kept reaching for the bottle, almost like a baby."
The marsupial is usually a rather grumpy creature with a loud growl and sharp claws. It rarely comes down from the trees and doesn't like walking. Koalas normally drink little water, because they get almost all they need from leaves.
The firefighters called animal welfare officers to pick up the koala Sunday, the day after deadly firestorms swept the southern state of Victoria.
Coleen Wood of the Mountain Ash Wildlife Shelter said today that the koala had second- and third-degree burns but would fully recover.
"I've handled koalas before," Tree said. "They're not the friendliest things, but I wanted to help him."