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Father and daughter duo works to help save koalas in Australia

Nearly 8,000 of them have been killed. Conservationists say Koalas could be an endangered species after the wildfires die out.
Credit: WTSP
ZooTampa houses koalas from Australia

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — More than one billion animals have already been killed, caught in Australia wildfires. 

A local father and daughter are trying to lend a hand. They're working together to help wildlife suffering halfway across the world. 

"It's heartbreaking and it really makes me want to go out. I wish I could go out and be out in the forest and rescue some koalas myself," Ainsley Wilson said. 

Ainsley grew up in rural Australia. Now she and her husband are out spreading the word, making sure people in St. Pete know what's happening miles away. Her father, Peter Ricardi is battling in Australia. 

"They had a fire actually come within a thousand meters of their property. They have a rural property with platypus and kangaroos. It's scary," Wilson said.

She said her father has had wildfires close to his home. While the government works to preserve human life, Peter said wildlife shelters and rescues desperately need help. 

"It's the animals! They also need some care and that's why we're working. We're looking for bandages, veterinary supplies, and just vets themselves. All of these animals need veterinary and professional services," Ricardi said. 

Many people are rescuing koalas. Ecologists estimate the fires have killed nearly 8,000 of them. That's a third of their population. 

"I think with this fire and really not knowing the true impacts with the fire until things calm down, it could change the status of that species," the VP of Conservation at ZooTampa Lee Ann Rottman said.

Rottman said the koala population could shrink to the point they would need government protection to survive once the wildfires die out. The flames are destroying their habitat and eucalyptus, their only source of food.

"Because they're a slow-moving animal, they eat eucalyptus, they sleep 19 hours a day, they're not as equipped to get out of the fire as some of the other species like kangaroo and wallaby," Rottman said.

If you'd like to get involved, you can donate to ZooTampa or find information on how to do so here.

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