By Gabriela Baron
Months after Australian bushfires ravaged the continent’s koala populations, the endangered critters are finally being released back into wild.
Sydney-based wildlife conservation organization Science for Wildlife announced that four adult koalas and a baby joey were returned to the Blue Mountains region of Australia.
“We have been busy assessing the burnt area that we rescued them from, to establish when the conditions have improved enough that the trees can support them again. The recent rains have helped and there is now plenty of new growth for them to eat, so the time is right,” Kellie Leigh, executive director of Science for Wildlife, said in a statement.
A total of 12 koalas were rescued and the organizartion is working to bring back all 12 this week.
While the released koalas are a small group, researchers are hopeful they will help begin the rehabilitation of the species’ decimated population.
10,000 koalas (a third of the total koala population of New South Wales) are estimated to have died from the bushfires, as well as drought over the summer.
The unprecedented fires reportedly devastated over 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of Australia’s forests over the summer.