It was a scene that broke the hearts of a small animal rescue team on Kangaroo Island — an injured koala sitting nearby a furry friend who did not survive in the aftermath of the bushfires.
The moment was captured by the Humane Society International (HSI), which has been scouring the charred Flinders Chase National Park and timber plantations for survivors of the deadly bushfires.
HSI disaster response head Kelly Donithan said the heartbreaking scene was not uncommon on the fireground.
“The image of the koala by the water near the body of another koala is particularly heartbreaking,” she said.
“Sadly, this is the reality on the ground on Kangaroo Island.
“The survivors have little to no energy reserves left and we are finding them sitting on the ground totally shut down — all too often with other corpses nearby.
“We did manage to rescue this koala and she is doing well in the emergency rehab at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.”
Last week, HSI team member Evan Quartermain spoke to ABC News about the devastation on the 4,400-square-kilometre island.
“It’s unbelievable out here — I can’t even describe it, you can’t walk 10 metres without there being another carcass,” Mr Quartermain said.
“But you could walk for two or three kilometres and there’s not a single gum leaf for these koalas to eat.
“They’re going to starve, even the ones that survived the burns.
“These plantations where the fire ripped through, they’re well and truly burnt, so we’re just scouting around for survivors. Walking through these plantations, all you can smell is smoke, ash and death.
“It’s extremely emotional.
“There’s entire families of koalas, pademelons, kangaroos all together on the ground, severely charred. And it’s not even families, it’s multiple species, all together.”
About 210,000 hectares — or almost half of the island — has been burnt by the blaze, and up to 30,000 koalas are estimated to have perished.
It is understood there were about 60,000 koalas living on Kangaroo Island.
Animal rescue groups hold grave fears for the survival of some of the island’s most vulnerable species, including the Kangaroo Island dunnart, black glossy cockatoo and Ligurian honey bees.
RSPCA veterinarian Gayle Kothari said the Flinders Chase National Park was the hardest hit, and unfortunately, that was where rescue teams were finding “a lot of dead wildlife”.
“We can’t really do much — they’re beyond help at that stage,” she said.
She said koalas were being found in a dehydrated and starving state, with burns to feet, noses and singed fur.