The fate of koalas has been called into question as deadly flames burn up their habitat in the land down under.
The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation estimated that more than 1,000 koalas have been killed and nearly 80% of their habitat has been destroyed by the record-breaking fires and drought.
The new report came just days after a dramatic koala rescue was caught on camera where a woman was seen wrapping an injured koala in her shirt as she carried it to safety.
“I knew that if we didn’t get him down from the tree then he would’ve been up there amongst the flames,” Toni Doherty said of the decision to rescue the animal.
Doherty later reunited with the battered koala, who now has a long road of recovery ahead.
The recent brushfires, fueled by prolonged drought combined with deforestation, have caused an already threatened koala population to continue declining.
“Their main diet is eucalyptus, but when we have catastrophic conditions — what’s left is so dry they are not getting the full nutrients,” director of Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation, Al Mucci, told ABC News. “So most of these wild kolas are struggling.”
People have started to urge the Australian government to pass the Koala Protection Act, which was written in 2016.
Now, koala lovers from around the world have joined the cause to try and help fund support from afar.
One koala hospital started a GoFundMe campaign in October to help raise money for the animals displaced and distressed by the fires. The campaign far exceeded its initial goal of $25,000 to build drinking stations and has earned over $1.6 million.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital updated its supporters on their page and said it will use the additional funds to share with “other wildlife organisations in fire affected regions across New South Wales.”
“We are also purchasing a water carrying vehicle with fire fighting capabilities to replenish the drinking stations with water as needed,” the hospital wrote. “Donations have now reached an incredible amount and we are extending the project to establish a wild koala breeding program.”
Mucci explained that this kind of care and forward thinking to raise money for the animals is their best chance.
“The bush is going to take a long time to recover so these animals might be in our care for much — much longer and that cost dollars,” he said. “We can never have enough money to support such an iconic animal.”