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Robert Irwin Fights Tears Discussing Australian Wildlife Caught In Wildfires

Ryan Ford 6 Jan 2020

There are no measures by which the wildfires raging in Australia haven't been devastating. The sheer acreage consumed and burnt to a crisp, the homes and buildings destroyed, the lives lost and uprooted — it's all horrible. Bearing the brunt, however, is Australia's wonderful wildlife, many of which can't be found anywhere else on the planet.

It's been estimated that as many as 500 million animals have been killed so far, a staggering toll that has animal lovers around the nation scrambling to do what they can to save as many animals as possible.

Australia's koala population has been hit hard by the wildfires.

It's believed that the fires have destroyed as much as 30% of their habitat, as well as killing the animals themselves in the thousands — at least 8,000 so far, with estimates as high as 25,000.

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Unfortunately, even those surviving the fires are having tough times after the fact.

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And we can see the strife in videos of dramatic rescues and dehydrated koalas drinking water being shared widely on social media.

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And there's a good reason why koalas have become the face of these wildfires.

As Terri Irwin explained to Australian morning show Sunrise, koalas are at particular risk.

"Koala instinct is to go up, as safety is in the top of the tree," she said.

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However, that instinct is not actually serving them well in this case.

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As Irwin went on to say, "Eucalyptus trees have so much oil that they ignite and actually explode in a fire. That means being able to treat and help koalas is few and far between because they're basically incinerated."

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It's not just the flames that koalas have to worry about.

"We're seeing all kinds of different injuries," Terri's son Robert said. "Obviously smoke inhalation and burns are happening frequently, but also animals are going into areas where they're not supposed to be to escape the horrific conditions."

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As he explained, this opens the koalas up to dangers they aren't used to.

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"This means they're getting hit by cars and are being attacked by domestic animals, so there's a horrific knock on effect."

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The Irwin family and the experts at their Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital have been busy helping out injured animals.

Bindi Irwin announced in an Instagram post that they had treated more than 90,000 animals so far.

The hospital is well away from the most dangerous areas, so it's a good place for animals to recuperate, but in those numbers, the staff are busy round the clock.

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Still, it's taking a toll, at least emotionally.

Robert Irwin got visibly choked up while discussing the situation with Sunrise, saying that "It's definitely an ongoing issue and we're just trying to do our best to help in any way we can. But it's a pretty tough situation. We're absolutely heartbroken."

If you'd like to donate to help Australia's relief efforts, there are many good, credible agencies, including the NSW RSPCA and the NSW Rural Fire Service. Donate to the RSPCA right here or to the NSW RFS right here.

h/t: 7 News

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