Australia's devastating bushfires have decimated millions of animals across the country, with many more still affected.
Humane Society International (HSI) is one of many organizations helping during the crisis. They are building temporary shelters and delivering water, food and supplies for animals rescued from the Kangaroo Island fires.
Search-and-rescue missions across the island to rescue koalas, kangaroos, wombats and many other animals that need help. In many places, the fires have been extinguished, but the bleak landscape left behind means starvation and dehydration are the biggest obstacles for the animals that escaped the flames.
"For so many of these animals, their natural habitat is gone, there simply isn't anything to sustain them," said Erica Martin, CEO of HSI Australia. "So although the hope is that in time once the land recovers they will be able to be released back to the wild, that's not likely to happen for some time yet. So for the meantime, we need to build these little guys a new, temporary home, and thanks to the donations we're receiving, we're able to get to work."
The HSI team is also building water stations in remote areas where koalas have been seen perching in inaccessible, tall trees.
Photographs from remote cameras in these areas show the koalas are climbing down to drink.
The temporary shelters are being constructed near the wildlife park triage center to help with the growing number of animals needing longer term care.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park not only has seen an increase in wildlife casualties, but also an increase in the number of dehydrated koalas on the ground.
"Over recent days it's been quite a bit cooler, so perhaps some animals are starting to move more than they did before in a desperate search for food and water, and that's why we're seeing an increase," said Kelly Donithan, Humane Society International's disaster response specialist. "As the days go by, these animals are weakening more and more to a point where they require intervention because there's virtually nothing left for them out here."
Rescuers have also reported that many of the animals' natural food resources have burned to ash, contributing to the number of creatures in need. (That's also the reason for the air-drops of sweet potatoes and carrots you may have heard about.)
A recent image taken by HSI went viral, but was mischaracterized, with some saying the koala was in mourning as it sat beside a deceased koala.
While the notion is fabricated, it sums up the devastating scenes the HSI team is witnessing as they come upon dozens of curled up and "shut down" koalas and animal carcasses across the decimated bushland.
Thankfully, the HSI team was able to rescue the koala seen in the photo, but there are many more that need help.
"Sadly, this is the reality on the ground on Kangaroo Island," said Donithan. "The survivors have little to no energy reserves left and we are finding them sitting on the ground totally shut down — all too often with other corpses nearby. We did manage to rescue this particular koala and she is doing well in the emergency rehab at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park."