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Crafters sew pouches for orphaned Australian animals

With almost a half billion animals killed by Australian wildfires, a Central Point woman is doing what she can to help injured and orphaned wildlife Down Under.

Cassidy Janisch plans to sew five pouches and 15 pouch liners using a borrowed sewing machine. Animal rescuers tuck baby marsupials into the pouches to mimic the cozy homes they once had with their mothers. The pouch liners act like reusable diapers that can be taken out and washed.

“The baby animals like kangaroos and opossums need a pouch to stay in,” Janisch said. “The pouch liners are especially important because they’re used to going to the bathroom in momma’s pouch. So if you have more pouch liners, you can just switch that out rather than having to switch out the whole pouch.”

Crafters around the world are answering the call to help as the devastating wildfires rage on.

The Facebook group Animal Rescue Craft Guild, which had about 1,000 members in 2019, has seen membership boom past 155,000 as crafters race to help displaced Australian wildlife.

The group posts patterns and information about what fabric to use for pouches, crocheted bird nests and other snuggly homes for animals.

Janisch heard about the effort online and decided to join in.

“Since I can’t be there in person, I figured this was the next best thing,” she said.

This isn’t the first time she’s helped after a natural disaster. Janisch traveled to New Jersey to help with clean-up efforts after Hurricane Sandy swept over the northeastern United States, Canada and the Caribbean in 2012. She’s also helped build housing in Mexico.

Janisch, who works for Asante, is staying closer to home this time as she helps out.

“I love helping people. I love helping animals,” she said.

Janisch visited a thrift store and spent $11 on a sheet set, baby blanket and shirt to cut apart and sew into pouches and pouch liners.

Used, slightly worn fabric works well for pouches because it tends to be softer than new fabric. Make sure fabric is clean, according to the Animal Rescue Craft Guild.

“Basically you want something that will be soft against the baby animal’s skin,” Janisch said.

In Australia, animal rescuers are struggling to deal with the volume of animals that need help.

An estimated 480 million animals have been killed since the start of Australia’s wildfire season in September, according to ecologists at the University of Sydney.

The estimate doesn’t include bats, frogs or insects, scientists said.

“The true loss of animal life is likely to be much higher than 480 million,” ecologists said in a statement.

Scientists estimated up to 30% of koalas have died near the coast of New South Wales, an Australian state where more than 130 fires still are burning.

With months left to go in the wildfire season, fires have charred 15 million acres, killed at least 24 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes, according to officials.

“It’s devastating. People have lost their homes. Habitats have been destroyed,” Janisch said.

Across Australia, people are bottle-feeding orphaned kangaroos, putting mittens on the burned hands of koalas and setting out buckets of water for dehydrated wildlife.

Check the Animal Rescue Craft Guild’s Facebook page to see what items are still needed.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to remove mailing address of people and organizations who were accepting donations of sewn items for animals. Those who were listed stopped accepting donations on Jan. 31, 2020.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Cassidy Janisch shows one of the pouches she’s sewing in her Medford home that will be sent to Australia to help injured and orphaned wildlife. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune