Sam the koala preserved in museum

Jan. 14, 2010 at 6:24 PM
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MELBOURNE, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A koala that died after gaining worldwide sympathy following her rescue in Australia's destructive wildfires has been preserved in a museum, officials said.

Sam, short for Samantha, gained international fame last February when video and a photograph showed her, injured, being fed water from a bottle by a soot-covered firefighter in forests 96 miles east of Melbourne, her burned paw in his hand.

The 4-year-old koala was euthanized Aug. 6, 2009, after life-threatening cysts associated with urogenital chlamydiosis, which affects half of Australia's koala population, were found to be inoperable, the wildlife shelter where Sam lived after her rescue said.

Her placement in Melbourne Museum, the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, "will preserve her story and her extraordinary role in providing a source of hope" to those devastated by the Feb. 7, 2009, wildfires, the museum said in a statement.

The fires killed more than 200 people -- Australia's highest-ever loss of life from a bushfire -- and charred 2,000 homes.

Sam "will also play an important role in educating the community about issues relating to koalas, changes in habitat, the impact of fire on wildlife and the role of wildlife rescue," the museum said.

The display includes footage from the original video, showing Sam in the burnt bushland in Mirboo North, a town in Victoria, Australia, and a segment showing Sam nursing a young koala on her back at the wildlife shelter.

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