Fol­low­ing the apoca­lyp­tic wild­fires that rav­aged vast tracts of south­ern and eastern Aus­tralia, an ap­peal for cloth pouches for or­phaned joeys has prompted thou­sands of con­tri­bu­tions in France

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

We were com­pletely sur­prised and over­whelmed by the out­pour­ing of gen­eros­ity that came from all parts of France CA­ROLE MAS­SON

The plight of baby kan­ga­roos and koalas or­phaned by Aus­tralia's bushfires has prompted a sewing frenzy in France, where an ap­peal for cloth pouches for the an­i­mals has reaped thou­sands of con­tri­bu­tions.

The call for in­ter­na­tional help was first is­sued by Aus­tralia's An­i­mal Res­cue Col­lec­tive Craft Guild and promptly shared by the Australian Park, a wildlife re­serve in the south­west­ern French town of Car­cas­sonne.

Within a few days, schools, re­tire­ment homes and sewing en­thu­si­asts had be­gun churn­ing out small bags in which to swad­dle the stranded crea­tures.

"We were com­pletely sur­prised and over­whelmed by the out­pour­ing of gen­eros­ity that came from all parts of France," Ca­role Mas­son, the park's di­rec­tor, told AFP.

The apoca­lyp­tic wild­fires that rav­aged vast tracts of south­ern and eastern Aus­tralia over the past five months have killed an es­ti­mated 1bn an­i­mals, an eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter un­prece­dented in the coun­try's his­tory.

Res­cue work­ers have been search­ing forests strewn with charred an­i­mal corpses for crea­tures that sur­vived.

Baby mar­su­pi­als that lost their moth­ers to the fires or fell out of the pouches in which they were car­ried while flee­ing the flames are seen as par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble.

To con­tinue de­vel­op­ing, they need to be bottle-fed and placed in a sur­ro­gate pouch, which needs to be reg­u­larly changed be­cause it col­lects the baby's urine and fe­ces.

"You need thirty per baby kan­ga­roo," said Ca­role, a bi­ol­o­gist who is her­self rear­ing a six month old kan­ga­roo joey that fell out of its mother's pouch in the park in Car­cas­sonne.

On the day AFP vis­ited the re­serve, her as­sis­tant An­nia Aubry was giv­ing sewing in­struc­tions over the phone to a vol­un­teer.

"No, you can't use syn­thetic fab­ric," she says, adding that a so-called French seam that folds in all ex­tra­ne­ous fab­ric is re­quired to avoid the young mar­su­pi­als snag­ging their claws on the stitch­ing.

Size also mat­ters, with koalas, pos­sums, wal­la­bies and other mar­su­pi­als all re­quir­ing pouches of dif­fer­ent pro­por­tions.

Out­pour­ing of do­na­tions

Such has been the re­ac­tion to the ap­peal, which was widely cov­ered by lo­cal me­dia, that the park has stopped ac­cept­ing pouches and is now re­cruit­ing vol­un­teers to sort all the do­na­tions.

Ca­role at­trib­uted the mas­sive pub­lic re­sponse to a de­sire by peo­ple to act in the face of dis­as­ter and "be part of the so­lu­tion, at their own level."

In the north­ern coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer last week, a group of women armed with sewing machines gath­ered in the so­cial cen­tre to do their bit for Aus­tralia's bio­di­ver­sity.

Over the course of five days, they stitched a hun­dred pouches, us­ing fab­ric do­nated by lo­cal res­i­dents.

Francine, a vol­un­teer in her six­ties, told AFP that the ini­tia­tive had "re­stored my faith in hu­man na­ture."

"We're liv­ing in an in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic world where every­one is fo­cused on their phone. This was a nice project that brought peo­ple to­gether," she said.

In Car­cas­sonne, ten women aged 30 to 60 took part in a pouch-mak­ing work­shop.

The French have also dug deep to help ship the wraps to Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary, with a crowd-fund­ing cam­paign rais­ing nearly € 13,000 to­wards the cost.

(AFP pho­tos)

Diego, a six month old kan­ga­roo that pre­ma­turely left his mother, sits in a wool bag at the Australian Park in the French south­ern city of Car­cas­sonne, on Jan­uary 20, 2020

Ca­role Mas­son se­lects bags for kan­ga­roos she re­ceived from dif­fer­ents places in France be­fore send­ing them to Aus­tralia

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