Australian wildfires: Wildlife rescue team from B.C. hoping to help animals
VANCOUVER -- As wildfires tear through much of Australia, a small group of animal lovers is keeping a close eye from half a world away.
Brad Pattison, an author and former host of Slice TV reality show At the End of My Leash, is leading a wildlife rescue team to Melbourne next week in hopes of saving as many animals as they possibly can.
"When you hear an animal that is completely helpless and screaming because it's burnt and it can't do anything…we can't sit idle and do nothing. We have to go," Pattison told CTV News Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 25 people have been killed by the Australian wildfires and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes across the country.
An ecologist at the University of Sydney estimates another 480 million mammals, including 8,000 koalas, have perished since the wildfires started in September.
Pattison and his team plan to work closely with Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary with its efforts to rescue and rehabilitate koalas, foxes, sugar gliders, kangaroos and countless other animals.
The group expects it to be difficult work.
"We're going to break down – we know that," said Kelli Boogemans, a volunteer. "To be honest, it is not going to be easy. Our whole team is really trying to focus the good that we're going to be doing and we are letting that drive us."
According to a Facebook fundraiser, the B.C.-based group has already raised more than $11,000 of its $25,000 goal.
Once they partnered with Jirrahlinga, they started a second fundraiser on GoFundMe with a separate goal of $100,000.
The money will go towards rescue efforts, first aid supplies for field teams, transportation of the animals and rehabilitation, as well as the replanting food sources when the fires are extinguished.
"If we do not get vegetation planted, koalas, for example, they're saying 75 to 80 per cent of their population will die simply because they have nothing to eat," Boogemann said.
Pattison said it's important to preserve the wildlife and save them from possible extinction.
"I want my nieces and nephews – and their children, eventually – to experience what a koala is and what a kangaroo is," he said. "I grew up with a little koala stuffie when I was a little kid. So I am taking that visual of that little stuffie and I am embracing that moment of my childhood."
Pattison is no stranger to being a part of relief efforts; he helped search and rescue animals when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010 and catastrophic flooding destroyed communities in Calgary in 2013.
The team of five is made up of volunteers from Kelowna, B.C., and Kitchener, Ont.