Koalas – which live in bushland and spend much of their time perched high in eucalyptus trees – are slow-moving and struggle to escape wildfires. As a consequence, large numbers of the cute marsupials were killed or injured in the blazes that devastated parts of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
Some koalas are already being treated – including Jeremy, a two-year-old who is being cared for by the Australian Marine, Wildlife Research and Rescue Organisation after suffering second-degree partial thickness burns to all four of his paws. Heart-rending images of Jeremy recovering from his ordeal have circulated around the globe.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) expects many more koalas to come into the care of wildlife groups as the fire grounds are opened up to rescuers searching for injured animals. In New South Wales an area of prime koala habitat – home to 35 of around 140 animals in the area – was largely destroyed at Pottsville, on the Tweed Coast. Four koalas have already been rescued from the area.
Now IFAW is asking supporters to make or donate cotton mittens for injured koalas, which typically come into care with severe burns on their paws. The injuries are treated with burns cream, and the paws then need to be protected with the mittens.
“Just like any burns victim, koalas’ dressings need changing daily, meaning a constant supply of mittens is needed by wildlife carers,” said Josey Sharrad, IFAW native wildlife campaigner. “Some burned koalas can take up to a year to fully recover.”
IFAW has even designed its own easy-to-follow koala mitten pattern for people who want to help – but the material must be clean, and 100 per cent cotton.
“Maybe some of you have some old cotton sheets or tea towels – just check that the material is 100 per cent cotton,” said Josey. “These mittens are simple to make even if you’ve never sewn before.”
If you want to help the poor old koalas send your mittens to IFAW, 6 Belmore Street, Surry Hills 2010, New South Wales. They’ll be distributed to vets, nurses and wildlife carers where they’re needed. Or for more details, visit www.ifaw.org/australia