Robert Irwin — the son of the late Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin — and his mother, Terri, are sharing the devastating plight of koalas as Australia continues to fight the bushfires that are currently destroying the nation and its wildlife.
On Monday, ecologists at the University of Sydney and World Wildlife Fund Australia estimated that over 1 billion wild animals have died due to the blaze.
And koalas’ circumstances are extremely dire due to their natural instincts, according to the Irwins’ who spoke to the Australian morning show “Sunrise” on Sunday.
“Their instinct is to go up — safety’s in the top of the tree,” Terri Irwin explained. “And with a hot fire, the eucalyptus trees have so much oil in their leaves that they ignite and actually explode. So being able to treat and help koalas is few and far between because they’re basically incinerated, which is absolutely heart breaking.”
She also believes that just setting aside habitat for koalas after the fires are extinguished won’t be enough to repopulate the species.
“Koalas are classed as vulnerable, and I think after this event, we need to really sit down and look at classing them as endangered and protecting our icons. Our kangaroos, our koalas, [they are] inspirational to Australians as well as our visitors from overseas.”
She concluded by saying that the koala situation is “just kind of a stab in the heart” as her son Robert, who had remained silent for most the interview, nearly burst into tears.
The Irwin family has continued to honor Steve Irwin’s legacy since his death in 2006, by rescuing and saving wildlife in danger and operating the Australia Zoo, which the family also owns.
The Irwins told CNN Monday that since the fires began their zoo’s hospital has been flooded with animals with all kinds of injuries.
“Now as they try to escape the flames, we’re seeing not only burn injuries, but also animals coming onto roads, being hit by cars, attacked by dogs, so it really is a tough situation and it’s going to be something that’s going to take years to recover from,” Robert Irwin said.