Czechs show solidarity as bushfires continue to ravage Australia

Wildfires rage under plumes of smoke in Bairnsdale, Australia, December 30, 2019, photo: ČTK/AP/Jeremy McMahon

As bushfires continue to ravage large swathes of Australia, people across the world are donating money to help in the relief efforts. This is also the case in the Czech Republic, where millions of crowns have been raised through various institutional and individual pledges. The Prague Zoo alone has raised more than CZK 4,7 million to help local fauna.

Wildfires rage under plumes of smoke in Bairnsdale,  Australia,  December 30,  2019,  photo: ČTK/AP/Glen Morey
Thousands of homes and around 180,000 square kilometres, more than twice the size of the Czech Republic, have been burned since large scale bushfires started ravaging Australia last year.

Aside from the 29 confirmed human deaths, around 1 billion animals are estimated to have been killed by the fire.

With the enormity of the disaster apparent, people around the world are donating large sums of money to help those affected.

In the Czech Republic funds are being raised through multiple donations and fundraising initiatives.

Perhaps the most visible internationally are the pledges by tennis stars Petra Kvitová and Karolína Plíšková, who have vowed to send AUD 150 and AUD 200 respectively for each ace they score in tournaments currently taking place in Australia.

Meanwhile, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent CZK 2 million. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said that the funds are primarily intended to help people who have lost their homes as well as for fire protection support.

Firefighter holds a baby kangaroo that was rescued from a wildfire,  Cobrunga,  Australia,  photo: ČTK/AP/Jeremy McMahon
An even larger contribution has come from the Prague Zoo.

Aside from AUD 10,000 raised through a special programme that dedicated CZK 3 from its entrance fees into funding, the zoo has also managed to raise millions of crowns by setting up a public donation fund, says director Miroslav Bobek.

“The Prague Zoo first called on the public to support the Australian fauna decimated through the fires via direct pledges and we mentioned a specific fund in Australia. However, the public urged us to also start our own collection and then spend the funds on the most important relief projects. We did this and in just over a week more than CZK 4,700,000 have been raised.

“This sum is likely to continue growing. It is intended for acute help to animals affected by the fire, as well as support for endangered species which have survived the fires in small numbers and will need help, for example in the form of zoo keeping under human supervision.”

Mr Bobek says that according to Jenny Gray from Zoos Victoria there are around 30 species of animal that may need this form of support.

Local communities are also organising funding programmes.

Bushlands at Nerrigundah,  Australia,  January 13,  2020,  are severely burned after a wildfire ripped through the town on New Year's Eve,  photo: ČTK/AP/Sam McNeil
For example, The Down Under, an Australian themed bar in Prague, hosted a fundraiser for bushfire relief organised by the Prague Dragons football team, with a percentage of the sales proceeds also going to animal relief.

One of the bar’s partners, Vojta Haša, says the business is now preparing for another fundraiser ahead of Australia Day.

“CANZA (Czech Australian New Zealand Association) organises a big party every year on Australia Day, which we will be celebrating one day early on Saturday January 25.

“This year they will be doing a big fundraiser for Wires (NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service) an organisation that also raises money for the animals affected [by the fires].”

Aside from funds raised directly in the country, many Czechs are likely to have donated directly to the various international initiatives, although in this area the total amount remains unclear.