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Baby koala clings to life after shooting

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Sixteen-month-old Frodo was sprayed with pellets from a shotgun
  • Her injuries include a fractured skull
  • Koalas are a protected species in Australia

(CNN) -- A baby koala was fighting for life Thursday, nearly a week after it was shot in eastern Australia.

The koala, Frodo, was hit 15 times with apparent shotgun pellets, animal rescuers said.

She suffered a fractured skull, and the pellets perforated her organs, including her stomach and small intestines.

The joey, as baby koalas are called, was found next to her fatally shot mother near Kenilworth on Friday.

Veterinarians performed a blood transfusion and a series of surgeries to remove seven pellets, according to her doctor, Amber Gillett.

She is eating leaves on her own and is in stable condition at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Gillett said.

"Frodo is now much brighter and alert, and is moving around well in the intensive care unit," Gillett said in a news release. The doctor said Frodo has a long road to recovery.

"At this stage, no further surgery has been scheduled. I will continue to monitor her condition and make a decision at a later stage."

Koalas were made a protected species in the country in 1937, according to the Australian Koala Foundation.

Deborah Tabart, chief executive of the Australian Koala Foundation, said attacks on koalas are rare.

"I think it is certainly unusual because most people don't shoot koalas. But I think it does happen and it probably happens more than we'd like to think," she said.

Tabart said she hoped the public outrage at Frodo's plight would draw attention to the greater threat facing the nation's koalas -- the destruction of their habitat.

"Twenty-five thousand koalas have died from dogs, cars, habitat destruction, starving to death over the last ten years," she said. "If what I've seen (happen) to koalas over the last, say, 20 years of my career had (happened to) dogs and cats, there would be absolute outrage."

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there could be a few as 43,000 koalas left in the country. It says koalas could become extinct if the rate of decline continues at the current pace.

However, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the koala as of "least concern," due to its "wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category."

-- CNN's Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report