Denver-based nonprofit giving $1 million to help protect Australian wildlife impacted by fires

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DENVER – A Denver-based nonprofit is allocating $1 million to help research the long-term effects of the wildfires on Australian wildlife.

The Morris Animal Foundation funds wildlife research projects all over the world, including Australia. This new sum will pay for scientists to study animal populations in affected areas as well as the effect of ash and fire-fighting chemicals on the marine environments.

“I think we all came up with the idea at the same time that we needed to put a large sum of money specifically to research animals impacted by the fires,” Janet Patterson-Kane, the foundation’s chief scientific officer, told FOX31.

For Patterson-Kane, watching the devastation in Australia unfold has been particularly emotional. She was born in Sydney and spent her early childhood there before moving to New Zealand. She also worked in wildlife research at the University of Queensland in Australia.

“I’ve got friends there fighting fires. I’ve got a friend there in veterinary research efforts, so it really has been an emotional experience,” she said.

Patterson-Kane also says it has been “quite touching” to see the outpouring of support from around the globe for Australia’s unique wildlife.

“It’s completely unique. And just even more devastating that these whole groups of animals that you just don’t find anywhere else have been so badly affected,” she said.

While current efforts are focused on saving animals from habitats that are currently burning, Morris Animal Foundation’s grant will focus on the aftermath.

“People are rescuing animals that are dealing with burns and smoke inhalation but as those fires dies down, we’ll be looking at what is left. Have we lost species? Of the species that are there, what’s their scenario? What sort of diversity have we maintained?” Patterson-Kane said.

She says there may be an emergence among wild animal populations, food sources may have been lost and water supplies may have been contaminated.

“We did speak to a marine researcher who said he would anticipate the ash and the fallout to reach the marine environment within six months,” Patterson-Kane said. “So we’re going to be dealing with chemicals and so forth settling in seagrass and potentially impacting sea turtles, maybe dugongs and all those other wildlife that we see in those environments.”

Morris Animal Foundation says it anticipates the costs associated with the research to exceed $1 million. They are asking for donations from the public to help fund more projects associated with the Australian bush fires.

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