Kangaroo pouches, koala mittens: knitters unite to aid animals in Australia fires
Volunteers worldwide create shelters for wildlife such as baby marsupials that need pouches to grow
Tue 7 Jan 2020 19.40 ESTLast modified on Tue 7 Jan 2020 23.35 EST
The bushfires affecting Australia in recent weeks have sparked a global crafting effort, as thousands of volunteers unite to knit, crochet and sew shelters for animals affected by the crisis.
Young marsupials including possums, koalas and wombats require pouches to grow. Without their mothers they rely on hand-stitched products from donors. Other animals such as flying foxes also require pouches to help their recovery, and rescuers say koalas need mittens for their burnt paws.
The Australia-based Animal Rescue Craft Guild put out a call for these products on its Facebook group, which amassed more than 120,000 members in the subsequent weeks. The effort has attracted donors across Europe, Asia, and from more than 40 US states and Puerto Rico, posts in the group show.
The Rescue Collective, based in Queensland, has partnered with the Animal Rescue Craft Guild to distribute donated items to independent animal carers across the country. The collective has been getting an overwhelming number of requests from rescuers around Australia following the fires, said Rachel Sharples, a volunteer there.
“It’s not just kangaroos, it’s also baby koalas, it’s bats, and possums, and sugar gliders – all the marsupials in Australia who are used to growing up inside a pouch now don’t have a pouch to grow up inside any more,” she said.
Holly Wehmeyer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is one such donor. She received a sewing machine for Christmas and made her first ever project this week: a bat wrap for orphaned babies to cling to. She had watched videos of the devastation in Australia and felt powerless to help, until she came across the post asking for hand-sewn products.
“I am a single mom, so I don’t really have a lot of money to donate,” she said. “But I know there is a need, and this gives us something to work for. It’s rewarding to think a bat can lay in this pouch and feel some kind of comfort.”
Alison Rouse-Cramp, a tutor in Australia, began sewing wraps for bats in October 2019 after seeing a call for them on a local wildlife Facebook page. Carers often send her photos of the bats using wraps she sewed.
“A lot of times in these crises animals are forgotten, so I am just doing my bit to know I have helped in some small way,” she said. “When a carer sends me photos of their babies in items that I have made, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Animals are always in need of these wraps – not just in fire season. Despite the outpouring of supplies, experts say they do not expect to have an excess any time soon.
Sharples said interested potential donors should follow instructions rigorously as some materials and patterns are not appropriate for small animals. The group has also received a sufficient number of koala mittens and is now seeking bat and kangaroo pouches.
“Australia has a lot of iconic and lovable animals,” Sharples added, “and I think that for people to physically be able to create something, to physically create an item they know an animal will use, resonates with people more so than a cash donation and that is why we have set that up as an option or a way to help.”