New York, Jan 16 (EFE).- Plush koala toys perched on lampposts, traffic signals, trees and scaffolding at different spots around New York City these days are calling attention to the raging wildfires in Australia and the need for contributions to help the many animals affected by the blazes.
The organization behind the stuffed koala invasion is “Koalas of NYC,” whose aim, according to its Web page, is to raise awareness and collect money in New York to “help save” Australia and its wildlife amid the widespread brushfires wreaking havoc in that nation.
Koalas of NYC is run by the New York office of the Cummins&Partners agency of Melbourne, Australia, and more than half its New York office personnel are Australian.
The agency launched its koala campaign on Jan. 10 by placing stuffed koala toys and photos of the cute little marsupials – which are native to Australia – all over the city along with a “QR” code so that people will be able to easily get to its online donation page.
The organization is raising money for Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), which is the largest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity in Australia.
The Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway, the entrance to the Museum of Modern Art, the ice-skating rink at Rockefeller Center, Lower Manhattan, Wall Street, the New York subway system, along with fast food restaurants and even some fire stations now all have koala toys in evidence.
Signs posted with the gray koala toys say that a billion animals may have died in the fires, including thousands of koalas and countless numbers of other species of all types, marsupials and other mammals, birds, reptiles and more.
Originally, Koalas of NYC aimed to collect $10,000 but it has raised $12,633 so far and has set the next goal for its fundraising campaign at $15,000.
Numerous artists and athletes have made donations to help Australia cope with the fires, including Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios, singer Elton John and actors Chris Hemsworth and Nicole Kidman.
Since September 2019, the fires have killed at least 28 people and destroyed more than 80,000 square kilometers (30,750 sq. mi.) of forest, brush and cropland.
According to estimates by environmental protection groups, the fires have killed more than 8,000 koalas, a species already classified as at risk and threatened by the local drought, disease and lumbering activities.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, just 80,000 koalas live in the Australian bush and the fear is that they might disappear altogether if fires such as those of recent months continue and the country’s remaining forests of eucalyptus trees – on which the little bear-like creatures feed – are not protected.