Crafting for kangaroos, koalas: Thunder Bay woman collecting handmade items to help Australian wildlife
Ashley Gibbons offers to be northwestern Ontario hub for others making blankets, joey pouches, bird nests
A Thunder Bay woman is offering to be the northwestern Ontario hub for people donating handmade items to help Australian animal rescue centres care for wildlife injured and orphaned in the massive fires raging across that country.
An expert on biodiversity at the University of Sydney, Chris Dickman, suggested the blazes have killed at least one-billion birds, animals and other wildlife, leaving countless others to suffer from burns, starvation and a loss of habitat.
Ashley Gibbons, who teaches people how to crochet through her business, The Happy Hooker, said her '"unconditional love of animals" and her desire "to be the change" motivated her to get involved in the worldwide crafting effort.
'Koalas do like to cuddle'
"The other amazing opportunity about this is that when would you ever be asked to make something for a koala bear, a kangaroo, bats, possums in Canada? We would never be able to do that. To me, that's a once in a lifetime thing to make."
The biggest need, according to Gibbons who is working with the Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild is for sewers to make artificial pouches for kangaroo joeys and other marsupial babies. In some instances, people are using the pouches like a baby sling and carrying the joeys themselves.
"They're saying they're going to be needing these for a very long time as they do rip, they get dirty, they need to change them and they outgrow them. Realistically this fire isn't going out tomorrow, so they're going to need these for a long time coming."
Gibbons is crocheting blankets to comfort koalas and distraught house pets, noting "the koalas do like to cuddle, but there's the dogs and the cats, they need blankets, they're orphaned, they've lost their mom and they need something to comfort them with their smell that they can bring from one kennel to another to help them emotionally."
'Think of it as a tortilla wrap for bats'
While the impact of the fires on koalas and kangaroos is attracting much of the world's attention, GIbbons said other small animals such as rodents and bats, as well as birds, also need the help of crafters.
People can make "little nests for mice, bats, little birds because all the trees are burnt and they have nowhere to make their nests and feed their babies. There's also a need for flat bat wraps, so it's sewn, like you can almost think of it as a tortilla wrap for bats."
However, with the exception of the blankets which can be made from polyester or acrylic fibres, Gibbons said animal rescue experts ask that only natural materials such as cotton or flannelette be used, and in some cases, specific patterns must be followed. The patterns are available through the Australian Animal Rescue Craft Guild page on Facebook.
Gibbons is collecting items until the end of January and is working with Air Canada to ship the items, free of charge, to Australia, as long as they are part of the luggage of a person already travelling there.
You can hear the full interview with Ashley Gibbons on CBC'S Up North program here.