Messages have been flooding in from around the world after a rare white kangaroo died at a sanctuary in Victoria on Friday.
Angel’s carers, who are heartbroken by the loss, say they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, with hundreds of messages posted online.
“Angel was special to do many. I’m half way around the world, you all have touched me deeply,” wrote an animal lover based in the United States.
“My heart is broken,” said someone in South Africa.
The owner of Little Urchins Sanctuary, Kat Agar-Teehan, was unable to speak after Angel’s death, but thanked everyone for their support in a brief but heartfelt message on Facebook.
“Thank you all. I’m so so sorry I can’t find my voice right now,” she wrote.
“I feel like my chest has been crushed. And every piece of me is broken.”
Angel’s plight had attracted a global audience after her battle to beat illness featured on television news programs.
Kind words from distraught supporters located around the world continue to pour in.
“I have followed this story since the beginning. I'm so sorry for your loss,” wrote a person in Nevada, US.
“You are in my thoughts and prayers and may you be blessed in abundance for all you do. I know I will hold my four-legged family a little tighter today,” a Canadian follower added.
Unable to find a vet despite failing health
Angel was white in colour due to a genetic condition called leucism which caused a partial loss in pigmentation.
She is one of the few known white kangaroos in care, with another named Cosmo, located at a zoo in upstate New York.
Angel gained attention as the “poster child” for the Little Urchins Sanctuary at Victoria’s Reedy Creek, which specialises in caring for orphaned and injured kangaroos.
In her short two years of life, she attained fans across the world and was featured on morning television and various news articles in Australia.
Volunteer at the sanctuary, Sarah Hart, told Yahoo News Australia that with her regular vet closed, her carers struggled to find one who would admit her for an X-ray when she showed increasing signs of stomach pain late at night.
“One vet would say, ‘I'm sorry we don't do wildlife, but try this one’, and then we’d call and they’d say we're closed or no,” Ms Hart said.
“Another was very cold about it and just said, it’s our policy not to take kangaroos.
“I said this is a pet kangaroo, you do cats and dogs, so it's just a matter of taking an X-ray, but they said no.”
Kangaroos ‘misunderstood’ in Australia
Ms Hart said Angel’s carers managed to make an appointment at a vet located one hour away, only to be told on arrival they could no longer admit her. A more urgent case had come in.
Despite getting regular veterinary treatment over the days that followed, Ms Hart, a trained nurse, believes the delay in getting a diagnosis that night was a key reason Angel eventually succumbed to her illness, which was found to be peritonitis and kidney failure.
Notwithstanding the worldwide attention kangaroos receive overseas, Ms Hart believes the animals are misunderstood in Australia where many see them as a pest.
Kangaroos are commercially hunted in Australia in the tens of thousands, constituting the world’s largest land-based slaughter of wildlife, and processed mainly for pet food and their skins.
Government approval of this slaughter, Ms Hart argues, sends a message from the top down that the lives of kangaroos are not worth as much as domestic pets.
“We really want Angel’s legacy to be raising awareness for the plight of all kangaroos,” she said.
“We want to highlight the complete disregard for our national icon by our government.”
Angel’s friend still looking for her
In total, Angel clung to life for three weeks, and during this time she became particularly close to a young orphan kangaroo named Flossie.
Living inside together to receive around the clock care, Ms Hart said she would often see the two of them holding each other close.
“Flossie’s devastated, she keeps going and looking for her, ” Ms Hart said.
“I was there a couple of nights ago, and she slept with me as she would if she had her mother.
“Now, she’s just really sad, you can feel it.”
Despite the sadness that has engulfed the sanctuary, Ms Hart says the volunteers haven’t had time to stop and grieve.
The sanctuary is continuing to provide care to approximately 50 kangaroos who all need attention.
A fundraiser to buy an X-ray machine to treat future patients at Little Urchins Sanctuary has raised almost $14,000 at the time of writing.
The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered native bird carer in NSW.
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