Rescued koalas named for fallen American firefighters

Koalas recover from bushfires and heatwaves at the Australian National University's campus.

(CNN)Three koalas seeking refuge from bushfires and heatwaves across Australia have been named in honor of the American firefighters who died in an air-tanker crash last week.

Now, Ian, Paul and Rick are resting at a temporary "5-star koala hotel" on the Australian National University's campus in Canberra. They were named by the Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust, which runs koala sanctuaries across the country as well as the rehabilitation center in the nation's capital.
The three firefighters were 44-year-old Capt. Ian McBeth of Great Falls, Montana, who was piloting the downed C-130 plane; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and 43-year-old Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., who lived in Navarre, Florida.
    All three men were veterans of the US military, and their water tanker plane had been chartered by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. The crew had been on a water-bombing mission in the state of New South Wales, where fires are still burning out of control, when the accident occurred.
      The Snowy Mountain koalas are three of 11 that have been taken in by the university. Karen Ford, an expert in koala nutrition at ANU, is caring for the koalas alongside caretakers from wildlife agencies and local veterinarians.
      Koalas recover from bushfires and heatwaves at the Australian National University's campus.
      "We have a long-running relationship with Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust Koala Sanctuary, and ordinarily [the koalas] would have gone there but it was burnt down in the fires," Ford said. "I am really pleased we can help these koalas otherwise I don't know where they would have gone."
      The koalas are staying in pens and temperature-controlled rooms for the next few weeks, with the hope that they can return to the wild after.
      "There are a couple with burn injuries and the rest have come from completely burnt habitats and they are quite skinny," Ford said. "These injured animals have been very stressed. They have gone through a bushfire but they are doing well. They are eating well and have calmed down a lot."
      Ford said they were able to reunite a mother and her baby, which is known as a joey.
      People who come across koalas should contact local wildlife agencies, Ford says, rather than trying to catch, feed or give them water. It could do more harm than good.
      "You need to know something about koalas to feed them, otherwise you can unintentionally starve them," Ford said. "Koalas also don't drink a lot of water, and if a koala takes water they may be stressed. If you are not aware of their habits you might not even realize that you are not feeding them appropriately."
        While the temporary koala relief center currently holds 11 koalas, Ford is prepared to help as many as she can.
        "They just keep arriving. There is nowhere else that has the facilities to hold these animals or this many at the moment," Ford said. "We will take as many as we can. We can take more than what we've got and we don't know our limit yet."