Remember that adorable koala joey that refused to let go of his mum during surgery (if not, you’ll want to click here … we’ll wait)? Well, a month after gaining worldwide popularity, Phantom the koala joey and his mum Lizzy have been released back into the wild near Ipswich in Queensland where they were originally found.

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Phantom clinging to Lizzy as they climb back up to their natural home. Image: Australia Zoo Audio Visual Department

Lizzy was given life-saving surgery at the RSPCA Queensland after she was hit by a car, but staff had an extra hurdle to work around: her adorable baby who refused to let go during the operation. Fortunately, the joey was unharmed in the accident and the duo was taken to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, where Lizzy could receive further treatment and check-ups to help heal a collapsed lung and chest trauma, while Phantom could … well … just hang on.

Lizzy’s condition improved each day, and last week, vets from the hospital declared both koalas fit for release back into the wild. “There’s nothing more rewarding than achieving a successful rehabilitation for these two beautiful koalas. They weren’t with us for long but in the short time we had them, we all fell completely in love with this adorable pair,” said wildlife vet Dr Rebecca Millers, who has been treating the koalas since they were first brought into the hospital.

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Lizzy checking out the surroundings with Phantom on her back. Image: Australia Zoo Audio Visual Department

“Phantom was very affectionate; clinging to his mum for comfort during her procedure, but soon after, Lizzy was the one doing all the cuddling. We hope they continue their loving relationship as they settle back into life in the wild,” she added

Unfortunately, success stories like Lizzy and Phantom’s do not happen often enough, according to RSPCA Queensland Wildlife Coordinator, Lee Pirini. Staff at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital are gearing up for what’s known as trauma season – the time of year when warmer weather results in more active animals and an influx of koala injuries and deaths, mostly from car accidents or attacks from domestic animals.

During the busiest times, the hospital takes on as many as 100 koalas into care at any one time, and with an average of 70-80 koalas passing through the facility each month, their work is vital in ensuring that these animals are given a fighting chance.

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