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Canadians get busy making pouches, nests, wraps for Australian wildlife hurt by fires

Thousands of Canadians are knitting, crocheting and sewing items for wild animals displaced by massive bush fires in Australia after a rescue organization put out a call for help.

Animal Rescue Craft Guild put out a call for help online and Canadians have responded

Tori Docherty, a resident of Oshawa, Ont., resident, has answered the call for help, saying she and her two daughters, 12 and 6, have been busy putting their handicraft skills to use. Here she shows off the beginnings of a pouch she is making. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

Thousands of Canadians are knitting, crocheting and sewing items for wild animals displaced by massive bush fires in Australia after a rescue organization put out a call for help.

Crafters are using fabric and yarn to make handmade joey pouches, bird and rodent nests, bat wraps, hanging pouches, blankets, animal beds and sweaters, possum and bird boxes. 

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild, based in Australia, says orphaned or injured koalas, bats and baby kangaroos need the tightly woven handmade items to feel safe and secure after their habitat has burned and they have been made homeless.

Tori Docherty, a resident of Oshawa, Ont., has answered the call for help, saying she and her two daughters, 12 and 6, have been busy putting their handicraft skills to use. She and other family members have made blankets, nests and pouches.

"I've always been an animal person. It just seemed like it's kind of fitting because I crochet a lot. We never have a purpose for it, for a lot of times when we do it. We just kind of do it for fun," she said on Tuesday. "This need came up for it. I don't have the money to donate. This is the something that I do have that I can help with."

Docherty says her heart goes out to the animals hurt by the fires. "It breaks your heart because you know what they are going through."

'We don't want to lose the koalas or lose the kangaroos'

The fires have killed an estimated 500 million animals in Australia since October, according to an Associated Press report. Twenty-five people are dead, nearly 1,900 homes destroyed, more than 100,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and more than 12.5 million hectares of bushland have burned.

Tori Docherty says she doesn't have a lot of money to donate, but she can donate her handiwork to help wildlife in Australia. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

Docherty said knitting, crocheting and sewing to save wild animals is a way for her children to learn a new craft and the importance of volunteering. It also makes them think about how to save wildlife and how quickly animals can become endangered by climate change.

"We don't want to lose the koalas or lose the kangaroos. When we lose one animal, we end up completely screwing up our whole ecosystem in the process."

Docherty said she has joined a new Facebook group, Canadian Animal Rescue Guild, connected to the Australian rescue organization that is receiving the items. The Canadian group was formed on Saturday evening and has more than 4,000 members.

Canadian rescue group growing 'by the minute'

Shannon Boone, who lives in Sudbury, Ont., and is an organizer of the Canadian Animal Rescue Guild, said the group has been growing "by the minute" since it was formed.

Her home is one of the drop-off points for crafters in Sudbury. Reading about the wildlife lost, injured and displaced prompted her to act, she said. The animals being lost are precious to Australia and important for the environment, she added.

"It moved me. I didn't even think twice about it. It was like, 'That's it, no, yeah, I'm helping,'" Boone said. "For me, helping is the best thing to do."

Shannon Boone, a Sudbury, Ont. resident and an organizer of the Canadian Animal Rescue Guild, says news of the suffering prompted her to act. 'It moved me. I didn't even think twice about it ... For me, helping is the best thing to do.' (CBC)

Boone said hubs are being formed in cities across Canada to serve as places where the items can be collected before being taken overseas.

Once the items are gathered, travellers who are flying to Australia can pick them up and deliver them to the rescue organization. She said a lot of the items are very small but they have to be tightly woven.

'My phone has been going off like crazy'

"My phone has been going off like crazy, my messages, my emails," Boone said. "Nobody expected the group to grow so fast. There's been a lot of work going on. It's absolutely amazing to see everyone come together for a common cause. We're all complete strangers and we're all getting along. We all have the same goal."

The Facebook group is asking for donations of yarn and fabric, which will be used by crafters who cannot afford to buy materials. "It will be given to somebody who is going to make something and it will be sent to Australia," she said.

A list of what is needed is being updated online every day.

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