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Disastrous bushfires have been raging in Australia since September, killing more than half a billion wild animals so far – with some experts predicting that the death toll could rise to one trillion.

Koalas feel much more secure when they can hold onto something tightly. When koalas need to be examined at Southern Cross Wildlife Care, they give them a teddy bear to cling to. This little one was orphaned in the bushfires and recovering from wounds. His next location will be rehabilitation at a sanctuary (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

Award-winning photographer Jo-Anne McArthur is the founder of advocacy organization We Animals, as well as a sought-after public speaker and author.

A wallaby joey rescued from the fires recuperates with bandages on his burned paws at Sue John’s home in Mallacoota (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

She traveled to Australia to document the tragic fallout of the fires, to share the stories of some of the affected animals.

A 10-month-old koala receives care and treatment at an RSPCA triage site. She lost her mother in the forest fires and her back paws are scorched. She eats browse (leaves) but still breastfeeds so is being given milk supplement, and is on pain meds and an IV  (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

‘Compelling images’

“For the past 10 days, we’ve been on the ground in Australia, doing our best to cover the wildfire devastation and its impact on farmed animals and wildlife,” said McArthur.

Burned koalas are darted with a sedative, then captured and lowered from the tree for veterinary care. They will later be released into a surviving forest (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)
A wombat is brought to the Southern Cross Wildlife Care triage team in Merimbula. A previous vet had treated the wombat for burns sustained in the fires and had cut off the burned parts of his ears (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)
A sheep who died in the forest fires in the Buchan area (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

“Access to the stories we need to tell has at times seemed impossible, especially in such a vast country. 

In many parts of Australia there is less and less food available for farmed animals because of the drought, and the fires are consuming any existing food. Because the animals would starve, many farmers are selling their ‘livestock’ to other farms or sending them to slaughter early (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)
A cow stands on the scorched land in the Corryong area (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

“That said, we’ve been able to capture several compelling images that illustrate the extent of the devastation we’ve seen.”

Phoenix, one of two calves rescued from the fires. Only Phoenix survived. In this photo, she’s being bottle-fed by one of the staff at Edgar’s Mission animal sanctuary (Photo: Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

You can find out more about We Animals and the work it does here