Animal welfare groups in Australia have launched a public appeal for cotton mittens to be made to help treat koalas that got their paws burned in devastating bushfires raging in South Australia and Victoria.
South Australia has suffered conflagrations in the bushfire season with more than 30 homes destroyed and 134 people injured. Some of the worst affected areas in the recent fires are prime koala habitat.
Animal welfare organizations, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO), are asking people to assist efforts to save koalas by donating cotton mittens needed for treatment of injured animals. The organizations say they are expecting an increase in the number of koalas and other animals being taken into care after being rescued from the bushfires.
Koalas being rescued are in urgent need of medical care due to severe burns on their paws suffered while fleeing over burning grounds or while clinging to burning trees.
Koalas are more likely than other animals to be caught in bushfires because they are very slow moving animals that spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping on tree branches, according to IFAW. Many individuals are taken into care with severe burns on their paws, faces and other vulnerable body parts.
“Many koalas perish in bushfires, while the lucky ones that survive are often badly injured and need intensive treatment. Injured koalas typically come into care with severe burns. These injuries need treatment with burns cream and paws need to be protected with special cotton mittens.”
IFAW provides the pattern below to guide volunteer knitters to make a pair of 100 percent cotton koala mittens.
An IFAW spokesperson Josey Sharrad, said the mittens have to be made from clean, 100 percent cotton fabric that can be obtained from “old sheets, tea towels or cotton t-shirts.”
“Maybe you have some old cotton sheets or tea towels – just check that the material is 100 percent cotton. These mittens are simple to make even if you’ve never sewn before. Just check out IFAW’s koala mitten pattern.”
Firefighters and vets are working to save as many koalas as possible from the bushfires. They are being assisted by residents providing water and food. The animals are treated with burns cream. The paws are dressed with bandages and then covered with cotton mittens.
Sharrad told the Daily Mail that they weren’t sure how many mittens vets would need but they would need a plentiful supply over the bushfire season. They are hoping to get as many mittens as they need from volunteer knitters
“We want to have the mittens ready to go and fit over their paws when they come into care to help protect their wounds.”
The pictures show one of the first marsupials taken into care by vets at the Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO). The pictures showing the young marsupial, named Jeremy, receiving treatment at the hospital have gone viral online.
According to Aaron Machado, a spokesperson for AMWRRO, Jeremy suffered second-degree partial thickness burns to all paws after he was caught in a bushfire in the Adelaide Hills Tuesday.
The pictures show Jeremy the koala having his wounds bathed. Another shows the 10.8 kilogram marsupial wearing his mittens.
Koalas are easy to handle being docile creatures. Unlike other wild animals, such possums, they do not scratch, bite and fight caregivers.
“Just like any burns victim – koalas’ dressings need changing daily, meaning a constant supply of mittens is needed by wildlife carers. Some burned koalas can take up to a year to fully recover.”
Jeremy the Koala will continue to receive treatment until he has recovered fully.
Volunteer knitters are asked to send their Koala mittens to the IFAW distribution center at 6 Belmore Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia.
[Images: AMWRRO Facebook]