TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – ZooTampa is among the local organizations sending aid to Australia as devastating wildfires continue to burn.
The fires have been burning since September, fueled by drought and extreme heat.
According to the latest from NBC News, the fires have killed 24 people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Approximately 32,400 square have burned in the past four months.
Scientists estimate over 1 billion animals have been killed in the fires, according to a NBC News report, citing a professor of ecology at the University of Sydney.
ZooTampa and other wildlife organizations are stepping in to help animal hospitals with the injured and loss of habitat.
The zoo has a conservation fund and considers this emergency funding.
“It’s scary. I think we are in a really critical point in our history where we’re seeing a lot of these huge disasters throughout the world, you look at the Amazon, you look at the fires in California, in Borneo and now Australia,” said ZooTampa Vice President of Conservation Lee Ann Rottman.
“And I think we need to really think about how we’re impacting the environment and the things that we can do in our daily life to make a difference.”
Many videos from the fires depict injured and burned koala bears.
That hits home for ZooTampa as three koalas call the zoo home, including one joey named “Sydney.”
“I mean, koalas are just an iconic Australian and they’re very endearing. And so, I think, we’re really proud to have them and be part of their recovery and doing anything we can to make sure that they do recover,” Rottman said.
Koalas eat eucalyptus and in order to digest it, they sleep a lot and tend to be slower than a kangaroo or a wallaby. Rottman explained that may be why reports seem to be focusing a lot on the mammals.
“But there’s a lot of birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, all of that [affected],” she said.
She encourages people to help out in any way that they can. It’s as simple as donating locally.
“Zoo Victoria over in Australia has created a bush fire crisis fund. So you can go that way or you can donate to the zoo, to our conservation fund and we can funnel it through there.”
The Florida Aquarium is also raising money for bushfire rescue efforts and has partnered with WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil. Profits from the aquarium this Saturday will be donated, as well as donations given online.
So far, 24 people have been arrested for intentionally setting fires.