Morris Animal Foundation to fund research following Australian wildfires

January 20, 2020
Kerry Lengyel

Their contribution will fund studies on how the country’s wildfires are affecting its native animals.

In the midst of the wildfires raging across Australia, Morris Animal Foundation has announced it is allocating $1 million for research grants that will fund studies on how the country’s wildfires affect its native animals.

According to local experts, 500 million to 800 million animals have been impacted by the wildfires, which have destroyed an estimated 12 million acres of land.

“From population studies of land mammals to the impact downstream on marine wildlife, the need for scientific research to support Australia’s unique, precious wildlife is tremendous,” Morris Animal Foundation President and CEO Tiffany Grunert said in a press release. “We must do what we can to preserve what remains and restore what was lost.”

Australia houses more than 300 native species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. One of those species is none other than the koala—a breed that has been critically affected by the wildfires. Experts estimate 80% of koalas living on Australia’s Kangaroo Island, an area identified as having the last large, healthy, isolated population of koalas in Australia, have already been killed by the fires.

“The loss of these koalas profoundly impacts their iconic species,” said Wayne Boardman, BVetMed, MANZCVS, DECZM (WPH), a koala researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. “The Foundation’s commitment to supporting studies specific to the long-term effects of the wildfires is a critical step in helping koalas and all of Australia’s wildlife survive the devastation of these fires.”

The immediate issues researchers are dealing with from the wildfires will soon turn into long-term effects that could drastically change species’ futures as their habitats and food sources are depleted.

According to Morris Animal Foundation, the research their funds will go toward could range from land-mammal population studies to the effects of the fires on marine animals downstream. But first, the foundation will create a forum for wildlife researchers to help determine the region’s most pressing needs. Then the nonprofit will seek requests for proposals, which will be reviewed and approved by their recently formed Senior Scientific Advisory Board.

Morris Animal Foundation also notes that pressing research needs in the region will likely exceed $1 million. To support the effort, anyone interested can make a donation here.

“In the wake of the wildfires, Morris Animal Foundation–funded research is more important than ever,” Dr. Boardman said.