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Uxbridge, Ont. vet pitches in to help animals affected by Australian wildfires

Click to play video: 'Durham region vet helps animals affected by Australian wildfires' Durham region vet helps animals affected by Australian wildfires
A Durham-area veterinarian is recounting his incredible experience after a recent trip to Australia – Mar 6, 2020

A Durham-area veterinarian is recounting his incredible experience after a recent trip to Australia.

The doctor was called into action last month to help some of the animals affected by the wildfires.

“It was almost disturbing how much damage was done,” says Dr. Jason Steinman.

For a health professional for animals, seeing animals suffer hit close to home.

“The hard part was seeing these animals in distress,” says Steinman. “We were there two-and-a-half weeks after the main fire had been through, so knowing these poor animals were just walking around for two weeks was hard to hear.”

READ MORE: With countless animals dead in Australia’s flames, researchers eye ‘carcass composting’

Steinman was on vacation down under, then reached out as he felt compelled to help. He found himself in Wandandian, three hours south of Sydney. It was hard to see the animals coming out of their habitat in droves.

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“At 5 o’clock every day, wild kangaroos would be coming out of the forest looking for food, because there’s no food anymore,” he recounted.

“While driving the highways, the devastation was just almost apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic. It was just — there’s not anything left.”

Click to play video: 'After Australia’s wildfires: What happens when 1 billion animals die?' After Australia’s wildfires: What happens when 1 billion animals die?
After Australia’s wildfires: What happens when 1 billion animals die? – Mar 6, 2020

The wildfires burned more than 18 million hectares of land across Australia — larger than the state of Florida. More than a billion animals were killed, putting some close to extinction.

The fires also left more injured. That’s where animal rescue groups came in to help thousands of animals.

“We were doing bandage changes and medicating with pain meds, and seeing these little guys, mostly they were feet burns because they were coming through the fires,” says Steinman.

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READ MORE: ‘Unprecedented’ Australian bushfire season may have impacted half a billion animals, researcher says

Animals like wombats, kangaroos, wallabies and koalas were all seriously impacted by the wildfires that scorched their habitats. Although it was troubling to see the animals in distress, there were daily reminders for Steinman that the work of animal rescuers was important.

“Our day was usually comforted at the end when we would bottle feed a baby joey at the end of the day. It kind of brought it all into perspective.”

Michelle Payne works with Steinman and says hearing his experience is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

“The amount of animals lost is truly horrific, and the stories he shared with us because we are in this field are truly upsetting,” she says.

Steinman raised $1,000 through a nail trim fundraising campaign at their clinic. The money will go towards helping feed surviving wildlife. He hopes others will follow suit so those animals can continue to thrive.

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