MESA, AZ — There is widespread devastation in Australia as the bush fires burn millions of acres, killing an estimated half a billion animals.
Here in the Valley, a veterinarian is hearing from colleagues first-hand about the fight to save as many as they can.
Dr. Todd Driggers treats nontraditional pets at Avian & Exotic Animal Clinic in Mesa. His love for animals led him to Australia last year to speak at a conference and form connections with other veterinarians who live there.
He says those animal lovers are sharing their need for help online, which prompted him to start a fundraiser to raise money for medical supplies and whatever else they need.
He says the fires are spreading too quickly for animals to escape. Kangaroos, for example, can run, but he says fences are getting in the way.
"If there is a fire that's raging and they're running and running, they'll run straight through a fence and they'll die," Driggers said. "Not from the fire, but the fence will hang them up and the fire will come and burn them."
He says the animals that do survive need surgery and extensive care, which doesn't come cheap.
Driggers says surgery for one koala bear can cost about $1,500.
The money Driggers has raised will go directly to veterinarians in Australia.
"It will be put into the right hands and right place with the contacts that I have," Driggers said.
He says he's even working to go to Australia himself to assist, he just needs approval from the Australian government to practice there. He says there's currently a backlog due to the many others wanting to go there and help.
"We need to use this to both teach us and respond to," Driggers said. "Because we're not two separate countries on the face of the earth, we're really one world and how can we do this right and help each other out?"