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‘Heartwarming and overwhelming’: Crafters show their love for wildlife

Ms Freeman is one of the organisers and a Facebook group administrator for the Animal Rescue Craft Guild, one of a number of groups popping up to coordinate community help for wildlife. She has seen the group “double in size and then double in size again” in the weeks since the bushfires, which has been “amazing to watch”.

Ms Freeman said the craft guild is an offshoot of a bigger group that coordinates donations to wildlife groups and they try to be responsive to local need to make sure nothing is wasted.

Kristie Newton, campaigns manager at Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), said the headquarters on Sydney’s northern beaches had been flooded with craft donations, arriving by mail from all over Australia and overseas.

Jenn Rhodes from WIRES with crafted wildlife pouches that have been donated.

Jenn Rhodes from WIRES with crafted wildlife pouches that have been donated.Credit:Edwina Pickles

“We have just received so many packages here to the office of just beautifully handmade pouches for little animals,” Ms Newton said. “It’s been incredibly heartwarming and overwhelming for us, especially in such a distressing time.”

Ms Newton said the best thing for crafters to make was joey pouches because they could be used now for the fires but were also needed every winter when the roadkill rate peaked. Patterns are available on the WIRES website.

However, WIRES also received a large number of koala mittens, which were not used because it was better for burnt koala paws to be exposed to the air.

“When we had the last significant fires in 2013, there was a group that put out a call for koala mittens and it went really viral,” Newton said. “Unfortunately, with these new fires, the posts came up again and went viral again.”

A brushtail possum in a home made wildlife pouch, cared for by a WIRES volunteer.

A brushtail possum in a home made wildlife pouch, cared for by a WIRES volunteer.

Meredith Ryan, president of FAWNA on the mid-north coast, said the group had to hire a storage unit to cope with the donations and it was taking a significant amount of volunteer time to sort through everything.

“People really need to consult the groups first before they start making stuff,” Ms Ryan said. “It’s heartbreaking to get stuff that someone has lovingly crafted and find is not needed … but we’re so fearful of offending kind-hearted people.”

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She said the $10 that someone spends on postage could be better used buying supplies such as flamazine cream or jelonet paraffin gauze dressings.

Meanwhile, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has raised more than $1.8 million through GoFundMe, far exceeding its original $25,000 goal.

Sue Ashton, president of Koala Conservation Australia, which runs the hospital, said the money would fund the manufacture and installation of wildlife water drinking stations in burnt-out bushland and bring forward a long-term plan to start the world’s first wild koala breeding program.

“We are excited to be doing this as the koala population in NSW has been decimated and we feel this is the only way to start rebuilding a wild koala population,” Ms Ashton said.

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