An Australian koala hospital raised more than R11 million to help rescue native animals injured in the devastating wildfires roaring across the country
- An Australian koala hospital on Friday raised over AU$1 million (R11 million) to rescue and treat koalas injured in Australia's devastating wildfires.
- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, an animal rehabilitation center located along the Australian coastline north of Sydney, created a GoFundMe page in October and far surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $25,000 (R367,000).
- "From the comments received, everyone wants to see the survival of this special animal," the campaign's organisers wrote.
- Bushfires in Australia are very common, particularly in the hotter spring and summer months, though scientists have said that Australia's fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change..
An Australian koala hospital on Friday raised over AU$1 million (R11 million) in order to save and rehabilitate animals injured in Australia's devastating bushfires that continue to rage across the country.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, an animal rehabilitation center located along the Australian coastline north of Sydney, created a GoFundMe page called "Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires."
The fundraising page featured pictures of injured koalas who were receiving treatment at the Port Macquarie facilities. The hospital far surprised its initial fundraising goal of $25,000 (R367,000), raising $AU1.19 million (R11 million) as of 12 p.m. Friday local time.
"The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been overwhelmed by the kindness, good wishes and support from the Australian and international community for the wildlife icon, the koala," the campaign organisers wrote.
The team said it spent weeks searching for koalas in the Port Macquarie area, which was devastated by bushfires in recent weeks that killed at least 350 of the critically endangered animal. The area ravaged by the blaze was considered to be prime breeding habit for koalas, who are very slow breeders that some experts predict could take decades to recover from.
The koala is currently listed as "vulnerable" by Australia's Environment Ministry, and experts at the Australian Koala Foundation announced in May that they believe no more than 80,000 koalas are left on the continent and are considered to be "functionally extinct."
According to the hospital, 31 koalas have been brought to the hospital from several fire grounds to date. The teams rehydrate the koalas and examine and treat their burns before they are rehabilitated.
The hospital said its initial goal was to raise money to create automatic drinking stations for koalas and other endangered wildfire to access in burnt areas. The large influx of donations helped them increase the number of drinking stations they can implement, and also helped them purchase of a water-carrying vehicle to replenish the fountains as necessary.
"Donations have now reached an incredible amount and we are extending the project to establish a wild koala breeding program," the hospital said. Some of the funds were also being used to build a "Koala Ark," which would help rehabilitate and encourage breeding amongst the recovering koalas before they can be returned to the wild.
"From the comments received, everyone wants to see the survival of this special animal," the campaign's organisers wrote.
GoFundMe told Insider that the campaign was the second-largest in Australia since the platform launched in the country in 2016.
Many were inspired to donate to the campaign after a video of a heroic woman rescuing a crying koala from flames went viral on social media.
The woman was identified by 9News as Toni Doherty, who said she was passing by the area on fire in Port Macquarie and acted on instinct.
"I knew if we didn't get him down from the tree then he would have been up there amongst the flames," she told 9News.
The hospital said in a Facebook post that Doherty was an "absolute legend" who captured a male koala that was "so disorientated by the flames and unfortunately was burnt further as he headed back into active fire."
The koala was named Ellenborough Lewis after Doherty's grandson and is receiving "five star accommodation" at the hospital.
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