Two teenage Australian cousins have done their part to help combat the devastating toll the continent’s brushfires are taking on wildlife by rescuing koalas and taking them to a neighbor who treats injured wild animals, according to an Instagram post from environmental-education group Earth Focus.
“Doing a little koala rescue… Just trying to collect as many live ones as we can,” one of the teenagers said in a video that has since gone viral. A handful of the injured and homeless animals can be seen cowering in the teen’s car.
Micah Lovegrove is one of the teenagers who rescued the marsupials, according to the HuffPost. He and his family live on Kangaroo Island, a sparsely-populated island off the south coast of the continent. About a third of the island has burned, including some property belonging to Micah’s uncle.
Micah and his cousin reportedly decided to do what little they could to help the island’s wildlife. They drove around the island gathering injured and displaced koalas to take them to a neighbor who is licensed to care for wildlife. The animals can’t be taken to the mainland for care, as many of Australia’s koalas have chlamydia, and the Kangaroo Island colony, which does not, must be kept quarantined.
Though the lads made a valiant effort to save the animals, a handful died on the way, according to Earth Focus. However, undeterred, the teens’ families say that the young men are “just trying to collect as many live ones” as they can.
At the time of writing, it’s unclear how many of Kangaroo Island’s koalas, which were believed to number as much as 50,000 before the island was devastated by wildfires, have died and how many have survived.
However, if the situation on the Australian mainland is any indication of how the fires have affected and will affect Kangaroo Island, then the outlook is pretty grim.
As NBC News reports, as many as 1 billion animals are believed to have died, so far, in the wildfires, doubling earlier estimates of half a billion. Ecologist Chris Dickman, who came up with the estimate, said that the number includes those who died directly from the fire, such as through smoke inhalation or being burned alive, as well as those that have died from related causes, such as dehydration, habitat loss and/or starvation. The ecologist’s estimates include only mammals, reptiles and birds, excluding insects, frogs and invertebrates.