'It's a global problem': B.C. man returns from Australia after helping animals affected by fires
VANCOUVER -- As the world watched while bushfires tore through Australia, a B.C. man sprang into action.
Brad Pattison – an author and the former host of the reality show At the End of My Leash – gathered together a small team of volunteers to fly over. Their mission was to help save as many animals as possible.
He’s now back home and is continuing to spread the message to Canadians.
“This is a global problem because my niece, my nephews, they will never get to experience koalas if they go extinct, and that’s not an option,” Pattison told CTV News Vancouver on Sunday.
The team spent almost three weeks in some of the country’s worst-hit areas. They would walk through the fire-line looking for animals that were still alive.
“It’s crushing because there’s so much devastation around these animals," Pattison said. "It’s just hard to put into words.”
Being on the frontline came with its challenges. Temperatures soared into the high 40s and there was an almost constant threat of ember attacks.
“You had a fire that was to the sunrise, the midday and then to the sunset," Pattison said. "So we were pretty much surrounded by fire, we had a wall of fire around 75 per cent of us. But it’s all worth it.”
More than 10 million hectares of land has been razed by bushfires since September. At least 33 people have been killed in the fires, and experts estimate a billion animals have died, many of those iconic native species such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras and cockatoos.
The emergency is over and the country’s fire zones received some welcome rainfall through February. But the official fire season could run until April.
Volunteer Kelli Boogemans, who travelled with Pattison, highlighted the importance of ongoing rejuvenation work.
"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 in an interview before the trip.
Pattison is no stranger to being a part of relief efforts; he helped search for and rescue animals when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, when an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010 and when catastrophic flooding destroyed communities in Calgary in 2013.
And his mission isn’t over. Pattison hopes to travel back to Australia, but until then he’s continuing fundraising efforts for organizations in the country, including Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary and Moreton Bay Koala Rescue.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung