Duke and Duchess of Cambridge coo over koala as they meet Australian bushfire responders

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3 mins read

Prince William and Kate looked delighted to see how a koala harmed by Australia’s January bushfires is doing as they caught up with people impacted by the disaster.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined a video call with business owners and first responders in Kangaroo Island, South Australia last Friday as the pandemic forces them to continue with some engagements online.

The couple met Grace, the koala, who needed emergency care after the fires and is now being looked after by Dana Mitchell, who runs a wildlife park on the island.

As the adorable animal popped up on screen Kate said: “Oh look! So sweet!”

Grace came into the shelter a month ago, Mitchell explained, adding: “She’s putting on weight well, loves her bottle and pretty much just sleeps all the time.”

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge heard about the impact of the bushfires in Australia. (Kensington Palace)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge heard about the impact of the bushfires in Australia. (Kensington Palace)

William said: “She looks very well looked after, I have to say. Grace looks like she has a very nice life there.”

They also spoke to Captain Mike Swayne, who spent five weeks fighting the fires as a volunteer for the South Australian Country Fire Service.

He said: “I was quite lucky, my beautiful wife covered for me as far as getting back to customers and saying ‘Michael is a little bit busy today, do you think you could come back another time?’”

William, 38, said: “Good pair of hands helping you out” to which Capt Swayne replied: “Oh yeah, she’s a good boss lady.”

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Peter Davies, volunteer firefighter, said he had never seen anything like it in the 50 years he had been volunteering.

He said: “I never want to see it again.”

Brigadier Damian Cantwell said it had been an “immense privilege” to answer the call, adding it was a “team effort”.

Stephanie Wurst told the couple: “Unfortunately in the fires, we lost our home, all the infrastructure on the farm, all the sheering sheds and workshops.”

They spoke to: Peter Davies, Dana Mitchell, Captain Mike Swayne, Stephanie Wurst, and Brigadier Damian Cantwell. (Kensington Palace)
They spoke to: Peter Davies, Dana Mitchell, Captain Mike Swayne, Stephanie Wurst, and Brigadier Damian Cantwell. (Kensington Palace)

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During the call, Prince William said: “It’s fantastic to hear about the community spirit in Australia as always, which is what Catherine and I see when we come down there.

“Aussies are very good at looking out for each other and it’s fantastic to see that you’re all pulling together.”

Nearly half of the island was affected by bushfires over the course of several weeks in January.

Reuters reported in January the fires had destroyed 2,000 homes and razed 11.2 million hectares of land. According to the Guardian, 33 people died.

The duke and duchess are carrying out lots of engagements in person now, but are restricted to UK events.