Enthusiastic knitters hoping to help injured Australian animals have been told not to send any more koala mittens because they cannot be used and will likely be thrown away.
Wildfires across the country have destroyed 2,000 homes, killed 25 people and decimated at least half a billion animals as well as swathes of natural habitat.
In a bid to help, craft guilds in Australia have put out a call for handmade products, including wombat pouches, bat wraps and koala mittens.
However, one veterinary virologist said these products are overwhelming wildlife organisations, and actually are not much help for the animals.
Dr Rachael Tarlinton, an associate professor in veterinary cellular microbiology, grew up in Cobargo, in the Bega Valley, one of the regions being affected by wildfires.
She told the PA news agency: “I have been in touch with vets over in the region, and they are desperate for people to stop sending these items. In some instances, they have literally tons of crates arriving with goods and they don’t have the time or the volunteers to sort through them.
“They don’t want to appear ungrateful, and the gesture is well-meaning, but people need to stop sending these items. They don’t have time to deal with this.
“Some of these items can be useful during normal times, however, the amount being sent over in the wake of this disaster is just too much for these organisations — especially for some of these smaller ones.”
Knitted mittens for koalas, in particular, are unable to be properly sterilised in an autoclave because the wool just melts in the process. Because of this, they cannot be used, particularly on injured animals with open wounds. This means the handmade items face being immediately thrown away.
Dr Tarlinton said: “The other problem with koala mittens is they still need their claws and paws to be able to feed themselves and climb trees.”
She suggested groups knit teddies or koalas, and sell them to raise funds for wildlife charities.
“It’s not as satisfying to know your items aren’t going directly to help these animals, but money can be used for longer-term projects to help the animals.”