Tanalee Smith , The Associated Press , Adelaide, Australia | Thu, 08/06/2009 5:27 PM | Sci-Tech

koala: In this Feb. 9, 2009 file photo firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured koala, later nicked named Sam, at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the regioN. Sam, made famous when this image was widely publish, is about to undergo a risky surgery for a life-threatening disease, animal shelter officials said Wednesday. AP/Mark Parden In this Feb. 9, 2009 file photo firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured koala, later nicked named Sam, at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the regioN. Sam, made famous when this image was widely publish, is about to undergo a risky surgery for a life-threatening disease, animal shelter officials said Wednesday. AP/Mark Parden

Sam the koala, who gained worldwide fame and sympathy when she was rescued during Australia’s devastating wildfires this year, was euthanized Thursday after a veterinarian found the cysts that threatened her life were inoperable.

The 4-year-old koala had developed the cysts associated with urogenital chlamydiosis, which affects more than 50 percent of Australia’s koala population.

During surgery, the disease was found to be so advanced that it was inoperable and Sam was euthanized, said Peita Elkhorne of TressCox law firm, which represents the shelter where the koala had lived since the February fires.

“It was so severe that there was no possible way to be able to manage her pain,” Elkhorne said in a statement. “All of those who have been involved with Sam are devastated with this loss.”

John Butler, the veterinarian who was conducting the operation, said Sam was too scarred inside to carry out the surgery.

“She was going to be left in pain in the state she was in,” Butler told reporters. “We had no hope of helping her any further.”

As fires raged, Sam was gingerly making her way on scorched paws past a fire patrol north of Melbourne when one of the firefighters spotted her. The firefighter was photographed holding a bottle of water to her lips, an image that resonated around the world.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that photo made Sam a symbol of hope for Australia.

Aussie Koala that survived fires dies in surgery

Aussie Koala that survived fires dies in surgery