Australia bushfires: British koala keepers to aid rescue

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Image source, Paul Sudmals / Reuters
Image caption, Australian firefighters rescue a koala

Koala keepers from Longleat are heading to Australia to help with wildlife caught in the devastating bushfires.

Two specialist keepers from the Wiltshire safari park are flying out after a call for help from colleagues in the south of the country.

Almost half a billion animals are thought to have been killed by the fires.

It is feared many that survive the fires will die later because of a lack of food or shelter.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Across many parts of the country deadly forest fires that have raged for weeks

Longleat is part of a long-term partnership with the South Australia Government and Cleland Wildlife Park, in the Adelaide Hills, supporting research and conservation programmes for wild koalas.

The keepers, who have experience of working with koalas and wombats, offered assistance after colleagues asked for practical, hands-on help.

"We have been watching with horror as the true extent of the damage and loss has become clear," said head of animal adventure Graeme Dick.

"This is an absolutely catastrophic situation and Australia's unique wildlife is being particularly hard hit. Recovery will take years ," he added.

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The keepers are due to arrive in Australia at the weekend.

They are taking a donation of AUS$ 25,000 (£13,000) to help fund the work of three local rescue groups - South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management, Minton Farm Rescue and Manfred Heide Wombat Rescue.

Fundraising is also taking place to assist with the longer term recovery programme.

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