The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is giving residents a way to support the rehabilitation of Australian wildlife decimated by the ongoing bushfires. The Aid for Australia campaign was spearheaded by the zoo’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, and includes the sales of t-shirts and sweatshirts. The proceeds will benefit an emergency fund created by the Zoos Victoria, a partner institution. Collection manager Ashley Sheppard says the devastation hits close to home.
“The Zoos Victoria crew are zookeepers themselves. Those creatures only exist in Australia so it’s a devastating thing to lose 50% of the koala population.”
Collection manager April Zimpel says the research that’s been done is also crushing.
“The numbers we’ve gotten so far on surveying is that there’s over a billion animals that have unfortunately perished. Those particular surveys don’t include bats, frogs, invertebrates or any insects. So it’s probably well over a billion at this point.”
Zimpel says the information comes from the World Wildlife Fund. Zookeeper and President of local AZAK chapter Hannah Vona says education and fundraising are the best way they can help from so far away.
“For zoos there it’s going to be rehabilitating wildlife and also rehabilitating habitat, because once the fires are out the project is really just beginning. All those habitats are going to have to be restored before animals can be put back.”
The zoo is also holding special activities this weekend, including special keeper chats featuring animals native to Australia, such as the Blue-tongue Skink and a Kookaburra. The events run from 10:30 to 3 both days. The hashtag is #AidforAUS.