Vanessa Monley with one of the Koalas of Bangkok on the third floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on March 3, 2020.

BANGKOK — With cute plushies, one Australian-Thai lookkreung is on a solo quest to get Thais to help rehabilitate animals in Australia left homeless from the recent bushfires.

From now until March 22, the Koalas of Bangkok campaign – cute koalas plushies with QR codes in downtown areas – will allow Thais to donate to assist displaced animals in the Australian bushfires crisis, months after media coverage of the fires faded way.

“We’re a little late to the game, but it’s better late than never,” Vanessa Monley, the campaign coordinator, said. “Now it’s about reintegrating koalas and other wildlife back into proper habitats, because if we throw them back into the burnt land, they will die.”

The koalas have been placed on the third floor of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (on the same floor as the BTS entrance and right across from it), The Hive both at Thonglor and Phra Khanong, Craft bar in Sukhumvit 23, Mulli’s Sports Bar in Sukhumvit 11, and in the UNCC Garden at the UNESCAP headquarters. Koalas will go up Friday at Aesop’s Greek restaurant, as well as at Kolour in the Park fest starting Saturday.

Bangkokians can tag selfies with the koalas at the hashtag #KoalasOfBangkok on Instagram.

The QR codes on the koalas lead the Koalas of NYC page which has a link to the GoFundMe for the largest Australian wildlife rescue organization, New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES). The campaign worldwide has raised $27,319 as of Wednesday, or 857,420 baht.

On Wednesday, the local fire service in New South Wales says the area is finally free of fires since June 2019. Vanessa, a 25-year-old who is half-Australian and half-Thai, reached out to the New York-based ad agency Cummins and Partners, who founded the #KoalasOFNYC charity initiative there which has since spread to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and so on. 

“Who didn’t cry when they saw pictures of burnt kangaroos?” Vanessa, who is employed full-time at the Youth Lead HIV advocacy said. “I knew I had to do something, not just cry behind the computer.”

The Australian Black Summer bushfires crisis, which began since June but reached peak media coverage in January, is still going on, with more than 18.6 million hectares destroyed and 34 fatalities. Animals are also suffering loss of habitat, food, and water shortages.

The Chicago Tribune, however, suggested in a Jan. 12 article that media worldwide may have thrown out high numbers – a billion animals perishing, for example – as headline-grabbers that are not agreed upon by all experts, and that not all animal deaths are due to fire. 

Due to extensive media coverage Thais were well-aware of the bushfires, with the Red Cross collecting 6.4 million baht in donations throughout January. On Jan. 30, the charity shifted to collecting donations for Wuhan battling the coronavirus. 

Forest fires aren’t raging only in Australia. Despite lesser coverage, much less in English, forest fires have also been destroying thousands of hectares of green land in Thailand in recent weeks. On Monday, Phu Kradueng National Park was declared closed for six months due to a fire that destroyed 10 percent of the park.

In August suspected arsonists in Nakhon Si Thammarat destroyed more than 2,000 hectares of forests and farmlands.

Monley, who’s had a taste of fundraising at her first venture, says she’s open to spearheading future charity projects.

Related stories:

Scorched by Wildfire, Phu Kradueng to Close For Most of 2020

Fire Destroyed Thousands of Rai of Forest at Phu Kradueng

Weeks of Fire Destroyed Almost 14,500 Rai of Forest and Farms in Southern Thailand