SYDNEY - An online site raising money to help koalas displaced and injured in Australia’s bushfire crisis has become one of the country's most successful charity campaigns.
An animal hospital in New South Wales set up the GoFundMe online campaign with a target of $17,000 to buy automatic drinking stations for distressed koalas.
It has, though, raised more than $1.2 million.
Donations have come from around the world, including the U.S, Britain, New Zealand and Germany.
Much of the interest in the facility at Port Macquarie, north of Sydney, came after the dramatic rescue of a koala from charred bushland was captured on video.
The marsupial, who was later called Lewis, was picked up by a grandmother, who ran through the flames to rescue the badly burned marsupial.
Lewis was treated for his wounds, but they were so severe he could not be saved.
Sue Ashton, the president of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, said the fundraising effort has been incredible.
“Absolutely overwhelmed. We had no idea it would generate so much interest and for the koala hospital it has been absolutely wonderful, but also for koalas. I think it has really brought them front and center and they deserve to be. They are just wonderful little creatures,” she said.
Dozens of koalas have been brought to the hospital for treatment since the fire crisis began.
Blazes continue to burn across eastern Australia. Six people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed since the emergency began in November.
The impact on wildlife is unknown, but vast areas of habitat have been scorched. Officials fear the toll on native flora and fauna will be immense.
Australians have also donated to those who have lost property, but some experts believe that the huge amounts pledged to the koala hospital reflects broader concerns about the impact of the fires on the natural environment.
The koala fundraising effort was launched last month and is now the biggest GoFundMe campaign in Australia.