If there has been a heartfelt symbol of the cruel nature of this bushfire season, it’s the plight of the much-loved koala. With estimates of a billion animals impacted by the ferocious flames, it's our koala populations that have taken a massive hit - on Kangaroo Island alone, experts estimate the protected koala colony there has shrunk from a healthy 46,000 down to 9000. Similarly pictures of burnt and singed koalas slurping hungrily from water bottles, and others being patched up lovingly by rescue volunteers, have made up some of the most enduring images of our summer. But even as the immediate rescue work subsides, other organisations have their eye on the long-term future of our iconic furry friend.
Wildlife conservation parks like the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Hospital on the Gold Coast is one such haven of hope. The sanctuary is home to a population of some 1000 native wildlife species (including our favourite new cover girl Tink the koala joey) and operates conservation projects and breeding programs to ensure their future is secure.
Their research has netted some big wins in recent times, with artificial inseminations trials of koalas proving a success, and breakthroughs in the development of a koala chlamydia vaccine also looking extremely hopeful.
Dr Michael Pyne, Currumbin’s senior veterinarian, has been overwhelmed by how passionate Australians have become about supporting wildlife. “While we may be doing amazing work, we’ll only truly make a difference if the community gets behind [the cause],” he says.
Our cover girl Elyse Knowles agrees. Knowles, 27, is a lifelong animal lover and fur-mum to two Weimaraners, Isla and Harlow, but like so many Australian she’s been shocked into action by the devastating impact of the fires, declaring she's "stepping up'' to make a bigger contribution as a champion for wildlife protection and ongoing advocate for animals.
“Initially when I started helping out at Currumbin Wildlife I just really wanted to spread awareness about the amazing work they were doing,” says the model-turned-activist. “But stepping up means being involved for the long run: this is not over yet."
According to Knowles, we need a long-term response that is “preventative and not reactive”, calling on the government to take immediate action to address the climate crisis and prevent further catastrophes. “If this isn’t an example of what’s happening to our world and how it’s changing, then I don’t know what is. How many more people, how many more animals and how many more houses need to burn?”
Like Elyse, all of us have an important role to play in shoring up the future of adorable offspring like Tink. Their future - along with Australia's - is in our hands. #protectwhatwelove
marie claire's march issue will donate $1 per issue sold to Australian wildlife charities coping with the aftermath of the bushfire crisis. Proceeds will be divided between Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Hospital in Qld, WIRES in NSW, Wildlife Victoria and Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in SA.
Read more about the people who are providing hope and inspiration as the rebuilding begins. In the March issue of marie claire, on sale now.
$1 from every copy sold will go to wildlife charities to assist in the recovery and conservation of our native wildlife.