DENVER (CBS4) – As devastating brush fires continue to rage in Australia, millions around the world are heartbroken by the great loss of wildlife. It is estimated a half billion animals have died, and that number is expected to increase exponentially.

(credit: Glen Morey)

From images of firefighters helping burned and thirsty koalas to volunteers treating singed and tired kangaroos, rescuers are doing everything they can to help the injured creatures. It is a difficult yet important task wildlife experts in Colorado know well.

“You can compare it to the case in Colorado when we had the bear cub from the 416 Fire that had its burned paws and we took that one in,” Jason Clay with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.

(credit: West Metro Fire)

Parks & Wildlife officers rehabilitated the injured and orphaned cub last year, releasing her back into the wild months later. They’ve also saved countless other animals when fires tore through the state.

(credit: CBS)

“You try to do the human thing,” Clay told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “The right thing for those animals. If the opportunity is there to intervene and do something, then [that action] can be taken. That’s why [officers] get into this job, to help the wildlife.”

It is perhaps no comparison between the past wildfires in Colorado to the unprecedented crisis in Australia right now, but still a glimpse of hope for the wild animals turning to people for help.

(credit: CBS)

“Nature is very hard on wildlife, but they’re very rugged animals,” Clay explained. “They have the ability to survive.”

And, one thing wildfires cannot destroy is the heart of human nature.

(credit: CBS)

“The good nature of people is that they want to help out and that is not something that should ever be lost or undermined,” Clay said.

How to help

• Donate to WIRES, a wildlife rescue nonprofit that is rescuing and caring for thousands of sick, injured and orphaned native animals.
• Donate to the World Wildlife Fund Australia, which is directing its efforts towards koala conservation.
• Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s GoFundMe, which has rescued and treated dozens of koalas suffering from severe burns. The hospital is using donations to install automatic drinking stations in burnt areas to help wildlife searching for water and to establish a wild koala breeding program to ensure the survival of the species.
• Donate to the RSPCA New South Wales, which is helping evacuate, rescue and treat pets and wildlife in threatened areas.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfires section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

Kelly Werthmann

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