With more than 25 million acres scorched, one billion animals dead, and several people killed, including three U.S. firefighters, there appears to be little to celebrate as Australia’s national holiday draws near.
However, the San Diego Zoo is tapping into the resilient and hopeful spirit from Down Under to host a weekend of activities to raise funds and awareness for relief efforts in the region.
Australia Day is a national holiday celebrated every Jan. 26, marking Britain’s arrival to the continent 232 years ago, according to the event’s website. Though the holiday started as a celebration for the new colony, it has evolved into a day of recognition for the nation’s diverse people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who lived there far before Britain’s arrival.
On Saturday and Sunday, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park will host Australian music, Australian food, and the parks will, of course, have Australian animals.
Other activities include meeting Robert the Zebra, feasting on meat pies and sausage rolls, and a watching a special Australia show by Dr. Zoolittle. To see a full list of events over the weekend, click here.
Hunter the Koala made an appearance on NBC 7 News Today Friday, sleeping in the background of NBC 7’s Audra Stafford’s report on Australia Day.
“They’re actually going to see Hunter moving about his enclosure, as opposed to sleeping,” said the San Diego Zoo’s senior koala keeper Jennifer Roesler.
But Hunter’s habitat looks very different from his Australian cousins’, which have been destroyed by ongoing wildfires.
“It’s just devastation. They have no food, no homes. So, they’re actually coming down to the ground, looking for water sources,” Roesler said.
The parks will promote End Extinction, where guests can donate to vital emergency funds for the continent’s wildlife. To donate, click here.
“The recent wildfires in Australia represent an environmental catastrophe that will change what we need to do to ensure the unique species of that region do not go extinct,” the San Diego Zoo Safari Park said.
Earlier this month, Smudge the Dog was sent to the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia, to track koalas in the wild. Once found, animal care specialists can rehabilitate wounded koalas.
“He’s been going around looking for koala fecal pellets,” Roesler said.
The San Diego Zoo held a special one-day-only admission match, where it donated more than $500,000 to relief efforts in Australia.
To learn more about the history of Australia Day, click here.