Sam the Koala
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
Sam the Koala was placed on display at Melbourne Museum today so that visitors may reflect upon her story and that of the firefighters, wildlife carers and other volunteers who responded to the February 2009 bushfires.
Those involved in Sam's story, including the CFA volunteers that discovered her, gathered at Melbourne Museum to acknowledge her public display. Colleen Wood, Manager of the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter, said "Sam's permanent presence at the museum will provide an opportunity to visit her and reflect on the catastrophic 2009 fires, which we should never forget."
Dr Patrick Greene, Museum Victoria CEO, spoke of the museum's pride to be the custodian of Sam, whose story resonated so strongly with a state in shock. "When many of us were struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the natural disaster, the story of Sam somehow expressed not only the terrible hardship, but also the immense community spirit that united us all."
Images of Sam drinking from a firefighter’s water bottle were published around the world and she became a symbol of the fires and their impact. Sam was injured during a controlled back-burning operation in the week before Black Saturday. Named after where she was found on Samson Road, Mirboo North, she was taken to the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter (SAWS) for treatment. The story of her rescue and recovery generated huge public interest and support.
Sam’s burns healed well but she was badly affected by Chlamydiosis, a bacterial disease common in koalas. She was euthanised in August when it became clear that her condition was too advanced for treatment. The Department of Sustainability and Environment, which is responsible for the protection of native wildlife, transferred Sam to the care of Museum Victoria.
In her new home, her story will be preserved alongside other artefacts of the February bushfires in the Victorian Bushfires Collection. This collection documents how bushfires have shaped the lives of Victorians.
Sam will remain in Melbourne Museum’s main foyer until March 2010 when she will be moved to a permanent place in the Wild: amazing animals in a changing world exhibition. Her public display will help educate visitors about how environmental change affects our Flora and fauna, particularly through drought and bushfire.
Listen to Colleen Wood's speech (Length 02:31)
Listen to Patrick Greene's speech (Length 04:31)