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Koalas return to wild weeks after cute surgery pics go viral

by Chris Serico /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Just weeks after social media went wild over photos of baby koala Phantom hugging his mother Lizzy while she underwent surgery, the Australia Zoo announced that both koalas have returned to their natural habitat.

 This baby koala was photographed hanging on to its mom during life-saving surgery. Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital

The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital announced in June that Lizzy, with young Phantom in her pouch, had been hit by a car near Brisbane.

Although Joey was miraculously unharmed, the hospital reported that Lizzy suffered some "face trauma and a collapsed lung."

 The adorable koalas went viral. TODAY

While hospital staffers performed life-saving surgery on the adult koala, 6-month-old Phantom clung to her side, prompting social-media users worldwide to say, in so many words, "Awwww!"

Kathie Lee and Hoda marveled at the photos when the story trended last month.

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Thankfully, Lizzy recovered.

"[The] infamous koala duo from the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital have now been released back to the wild near Ipswich in Queensland, where they were originally found," the hospital stated in a press release Wednesday.

 The Australia Zoo announced that Lizzy has recovered and both koalas have returned to their natural habitat. Australia Zoo Audio Visual Department

Before the koalas' return to their habitat, hospital veterinarians issued the animals a "clean bill of health," and tagged and microchipped both of them, according to the press release.

"There's nothing more rewarding than achieving a successful rehabilitation for these two beautiful koalas," Dr. Rebecca Millers, who cared for the two koalas during Lizzy's recovery, said in a statement. "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."

 Lizzy, the mother koala to baby Phantom, had been hit by a car near Brisbane in June, and suffered some "face trauma and a collapsed lung" before the Australia Zoo performed surgery on her and released both koalas back into the wild. Australia Zoo Audio Visual Department

Millers added that Lizzy seemed particularly appreciative of Phantom's affectionate nature during the surgery. "Phantom was very affectionate, clinging to his mum for comfort during her procedure, but soon after, Lizzy was the one doing all the cuddling," Millers said. "We hope they continue their loving relationship as they settle back into life in the wild."

To donate to the nonprofit group that helped care for these koalas, visit

Follow writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

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