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Stop Sending Koala Mittens to Australia

The cuddly marsupials are touched by the word's generosity, but they don't need anymore adorable paw protectors.

All images via International Fund for Animal Welfare

As summer in the Southern Hemisphere continues, Australia is again in the grips of a devastating bushfire season. Last week 26 homes were destroyed in South Australia while Western Australia continues to battle blazes. Although there have been no human deaths, it's estimated that hundreds of animals have died with thousands more injured or orphaned.

Last week a photo of one of these little koalas suffering burnt paws went viral alongside a call out from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for tiny cotton mittens to wear over their bandages.


Skip forward a week, and the IFAW is swamped with thousands of mittens sent from all over Australia, the United States, Russia, and even Kazakstan. Their message now is that they need you to chill out.

Casey Samaeli and Naomi Schofield from IFAW with one of their many piles of mittens.

Josey Sharrad, the IFAW campaigner who inadvertently started the frenzie told VICE, "I expected to get a couple of hundred, 500 at the most. We thought it would be a nice thing to ask our supporters to do, but didn't foresee the global phenomenon it would become." She estimates the numbers of mittens are in the thousands, but with new deliveries arriving every 10 minutes crowding the office, they haven't even been able to count them.

With enough pairs to easily maintain stocks for the next few years, the mittens are now being sent on to other carers. And although touched by the gesture, Josey reiterates, "we don't really want anymore mittens". Rather The IFAW is urging people to make and send pouches for kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats that have been injured or orphaned in the fires. Unlike the specialty mittens, the pouches can be used for several animals all year round. Plus with animals working their way through several pouches a day as they have to be changed with every feeding, they need a lot.

A joey in a homemade pouch.

Conscious of what happened last time, Josey is quick to add, "We don't want to put the call out internationally for pouches, we don't want to have another Mitten-gate."

As the flow of mittens hopefully begins to slow, the challenge now is to manage the interest and support in the organisation's work after the image of a koala wearing gloves drops off the news cycle. Although following their recent success they'll be brainstorming other things enthusiastic, crafty, animal-loving individuals can contribute. But for now the recommendation is to first ask your local wildlife organisation what they need. You know, rather than just jumping to the most adorable conclusion.

So thanks for your support, but please world, stop sending our native animals mittens.

Follow Wendy on Twitter: @Wendywends