Prepare to have your heartstrings tugged at this image of Steve Irwin
Nearly half a billion Australian mammals, birds, and reptiles are feared dead, according to ecologists from the University of Sydney. It’s a heartbreaking reality of the brushfires ravaging through Australia right now, and it’s lead to people all over the world trying to find a way to help. One Australian artist was inspired to create a cartoon to express her sadness over the tragedy, and it’s now going viral.
The illustration shows the late Crocodile Hunter and famous conservationist Steve Irwin greeting the poor animals that have succumbed to the fires, including kangaroos, koalas and others. Kneeling down with his arms wide open, Irwin can be seen saying: “Don’t worry little guys! I’ll take care of you!”
The artist, Shania-Mae Sturm II, says she dedicates her cartoon to “all the innocent animals caught in the blazes” in her home country. The scale of the tragedy of the fires is so immense, it provides some sense of peace to imagine the animals being taken care of in their afterlife.
“I have drawn Australian animals before but I have never gone so in-depth as I had with this drawing,” Sturm tells Scary Mommy. “I honestly did not expect it to go viral! I am absolutely shocked and so happy about the fact that everyone loves it!”
The artist currently resides here in the United States with her husband, but says the news of the fires hits home — literally — and hopes people are inspired to donate to Australian fundraising campaigns that directly support the fire victims and volunteers.
“I’m so thankful that everyone has enjoyed my drawings, I’m going to keep bettering my talents in hopes to one day work for Disney as an animator,” she says. “I can’t thank everyone enough for the support.”
The estimated death toll included up to 8,000 koalas, according to the federal environment minister Sussan Ley, who tells ABC Radio that up to 30 percent of the species in New South Wales may have been completely wiped out. The area is home to a huge portion of Australia’s koalas, with an estimated population of between 15,000 to 28,000. The natural instinct for koalas is to climb up the eucalyptus trees they inhabit — unfortunately, eucalyptus oil is extremely flammable, which leaves these creatures extremely vulnerable to the flames.
Currently, 24 people have been arrested for deliberately starting fires during the continent’s bushfire season. The two dozen arrested are among 183 facing legal action in the Australian state of New South Wales for playing a role in starting a fire — or making them worse.
As for her viral tribute drawing, Sturm is pleased the image is providing people with a sense of comfort. “I hope all the animals who couldn’t make it are now in heaven with Steve Irwin, being taken care of, and not having a care in the world or memory of how they got there.”