Two cousins have been hailed as heroes for rescuing koalas injured in Australia’s devastating bushfires. The pair of teenagers filmed themselves with a number of marsupials in their car before they drove off to seek help. The video was taken on Kangaroo Island, a wildlife refuge off the coast of South Australia which has seen scores of animals killed in the raging flames.
One unnamed teen could be heard saying: ‘This is our little koala rescue’ before focusing in on a mother who was cuddling with her joey. Speaking from their makeshift ambulance, he then adds: ‘We are just trying to collect as many live ones as we can.’ Teen cousins drive around Kangaroo Island rescuing koalas Play Video Loaded: 0% 0:00Progress: 0% PlayMute Current Time0:00 / Duration Time0:14 Fullscreen
The world has been left shocked by the impact of the fires in Australia, which began raging in September and show no sign of dying down. Some one billion animals are now believed to have perished while millions of others face a perilous future through starvation as the fires consume their habitat. Kangaroo Island is home to some of the country’s most endangered creatures but teams have arrived to help euthanise livestock and wild animals injured in the blazes.
Around one-third of the island has already been destroyed and two people died in their car after becoming trapped by flames. The army is now en-route to help bushfire victims and more than 25,000 koalas are feared to have died in that one area alone.
Some one billion animals are now estimated to have died (Picture: AAP) Koalas were introduced to the island in the 1920s and were free from chlamydia, unlike the mainland population. Sam Mitchell, co-owner of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, told Guardian Australia they have had 50 injured koalas brought to them. He said that ‘at least a third of what has been brought in we’ve had to euthanise, unfortunately. ‘We are seeing many burns to hands and feet – fingernails melted off. For some the burns are just too extreme.’ Mr Mitchell said he believes at least half the 50,000-strong population has perished in the blazes
Last month, koalas were declared ‘functionally extinct’ as the worst bushfire season on record has destroyed 80 per cent of their habitat in some parts of Australia. Temperatures soared to over 48C at the weekend and winds of up to 50mph fanned the flames.
The start of the weeks has brought a brief respite to the deadly fires as rain and cooler temperatures have moved in. Hotter weather is expected to return later in the week and weather experts have urged people not to ‘get lulled into a false sense of security.’
The blazes can be seen from space and many are too big to put out that only sustained rainfall would end the crisis. So far the fires have killed 25 people and torn through more than 8.6 million hectares (21.3 million acres) of land – an area two-thirds the size of England. Smoke from the fires has now been spotted more than 7,400 miles away in south America.