ETHEL, La. (WAFB) - The owner of Barn Hill Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary in East Feliciana Parish, will soon be traveling to Australia to assist workers in caring and rescuing wild animals injured by massive brush fires.
Gabe Ligon and his wildlife sanctuary specialize in housing exotic animals, such as kangaroos.
“We keep a few Australian species here,” Ligon said. “I’ve made a career of taking care of these animals and I feel like I can do my part as a professional in the industry that works with kangaroos to go over there and help out.”
Ligon flew out of a California airport on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
“I’m very nervous about the situation,” Ligon said. “Fire is a very unforgiving beast and it’s very intimidating to think so much of the country is engulfed, and we’re not only dealing with animal lives here, we’re dealing with human lives.”
An estimated 1 billion animals have been lost in the fires as scientists warn that species of mammals, birds, insects, fungi and plants may have been wiped out before they were even discovered. Accurate numbers on animal losses are hard to come by as the disaster unfolds, with some fire officials saying blazes will continue to burn into March.
Even animals that survive the fires are still at risk. If their habitat is gone, “it doesn’t matter,” Manu Saunders, a research fellow and insect ecologist at the University of New England in Armidale told The Washington Post. “They’ll die anyway.”
As Ligon prepares to leave, he’s asking for Louisiana residents for donations to support efforts in Australia.
“These smaller facilities that take care of the more specialty animals, they’re really not getting any funding,” he said. “So our job right now is to one, fund-raise and distribute money to these smaller sanctuaries who are in need, and two, to do a supply drive.”
Ligon will be in Australia for at least a month.
Barn Hill will be hosting a kangaroo yoga class on Friday, Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person. Ligon says filling the two classes, one at his sanctuary in Ethel and the second at Energy Gym in Delaware, would raise around $5,000.
“The money would go a long way toward buying supplies,” Ligon says.