Online fundraiser for bushfire-hit koalas tops $1m Aussie dollars

Donations pour in from nations including the US, France and the UK for koalas caught up in Australia's deadly bushfires.

    Koalas have been listed as a vulnerable species in many parts of Australia with their population under threat from habitat destruction, bushfires and other factors [File: Stefica Nicol Bikes/Reuters]
    Koalas have been listed as a vulnerable species in many parts of Australia with their population under threat from habitat destruction, bushfires and other factors [File: Stefica Nicol Bikes/Reuters]

    An online fundraiser for koalas injured in devastating bushfires has topped one million Australian dollars ($680,000) on Thursday, making it Australia's biggest campaign on the GoFundMe platform this year.

    Deadly bushfires have ravaged vast swathes of eastern Australia, and wildlife carers estimate the blazes have killed hundreds of koalas this month in New South Wales state alone.

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    A crowdfunding page set up by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to provide automatic water drinking stations for wild koalas soared past one million Australian dollars, with donations from more than 20,000 people from countries including the United States, France and England.

    The wildlife charity's Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires drive, which had an initial goal of just 25,000 Australian dollars, got more donations than any other campaign in Australia this year, GoFundMe said, and is the second-biggest since the platform launched in the country in 2016.

    It is one of 700 bushfire-related fundraisers launched on the platform in the past 10 days, which to date have raised a combined total of two million Australian dollars.

    The next-biggest has raised 60,000 Australian dollars to support firefighters and people impacted by the blazes, which have killed six people, razed hundreds of homes and scorched about 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of land since October.

    RFS volunteers and NSW Fire and Rescue officers protect a home on Wheelbarrow Ridge Road being impacted by the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Heights south west of Sydney
    Millions of acres of land have been scorched by bushfires in New South Wales [AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via Reuters]

    The koala hospital, some four hours north of Sydney, has rescued 31 koalas from the scorched bush in recent weeks, and said it had been "overwhelmed by the kindness, good wishes and support from the Australian and international community".

    It plans to use the excess funds to deliver koala drinking stations to other parts of the state, purchase a water-carrying vehicle to replenish the stations, and to establish a koala breeding programme.

    With more than 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of land scorched in the state, the fires have also destroyed large tracts of the tree-dwelling marsupial's habitat.

    A so-called "Koala Ark" would be built for recovering koalas, the hospital said, hoping they will eventually breed and be returned to the wild.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency