How to Help Australia’s Animals
The ongoing Australian bushfires may have claimed the lives of over half a billion wild animals, according to ecologists at the University of Sydney. The fires have lasted for months, burning 12.35 million acres, destroying more than 1,400 homes and claiming the lives of at least 23 people. Many Australians, including Sydney’s mayor, have pointed to climate change as a key factor in causing the major drought that led to the fires’ severity and criticized the government for not taking greater environmental action.
Some of the bushfire victims include Australia’s most well-known animals: koalas. Koalas are particularly at risk as they are slow-moving, making it harder for them to escape from the blaze. They are also already threatened by significant habitat loss and the fires have only made their habitat shrink further.
"Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed," Australia's environment minister, Sussan Ley, said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We'll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made."
Almost 8,000 koalas have died since the fires started, representing about one-third of the koala population in their primary habitat, according to ecologists. One of the most notable animal deaths was that of Lewis the Koala. A video of him being rescued from a fire by an Australian grandmother went viral, but he later succumbed to his severe burns.
Along with animals, insects and plants that are vital to the natural ecosystem have been destroyed in the blaze. Ecologists are unsure how the environment will recover after the fires are successfully put out.
While there are many organizations assisting in battling the blaze, several are animal-specific:
• WIRES is an Australian nonprofit that specializes in wildlife rescue. It is caring for animals affected by the fire, such as those that are sick, orphaned or displaced.
• World Wildlife Fund Australia is concentrating its efforts on koala protection.
• Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has established a GoFundMe. It is caring for koalas with severe burns and treated Lewis the Koala. The hospital is establishing automatic drinking stations to give water to animals in areas affected by the fire. It is also planning to start a koala breeding program.
• RSPCA New South Wales is assisting in the evacuation and care of animals affected by the bushfires.
Donating to any of these organizations will help Australian animals in need.