Prince William and Kate Middleton coo over rescued koala during video call

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October 01, 2020 – 17:10 BST Danielle Stacey

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came face-to-face with a rescued koala – albeit via video call – as they praised the Aussie “community spirit” after the devastating bushfires in the country this year.

Prince William and Kate, both 38, spoke to local business owners and first responders from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, to hear more about the impact of the wildfires which struck the island in January.

The royal couple cooed over Grace the koala, who is now being cared for by a wildlife park, after being hit by a car.

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WATCH: William and Kate come face-to-face with rescue koala

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

The Duke and Duchess looked shocked as the sanctuary’s co-owner Dana Mitchell told them that the koala population had decreased from 60 to 80,000 to an estimated five to 10,000 since the bushfires.

Approximately 48 per cent of Kangaroo Island was affected by bushfires over the course of several weeks, leading to the loss of two lives and significant damage to residents’ homes and livelihoods.  

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William and Kate met Grace the koala during their video call

During the call, the Duke of Cambridge 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.”

Captain Mike Swayne, who spent five weeks fighting the fires as a volunteer for the South Australian Country Fire Service, outlined during the call the difficulties faced by first responders on the ground, including the weather conditions and the speed at which the fires spread.

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The Cambridges spoke to local businesses and first responders from Kangaroo Island

William and Kate also heard from Brigadier Damian Cantwell of the Australian Defence Force and Beekeeper Peter Davies, who lost 500 hives of honey, and Stephanie Wurst, a farmer, who lost her home and farm infrastructure as well as half her livestock.

Kate asked Mrs Wurst: “How are your kids with it as well? [You’re] trying to manage this with their worries and their fear as well, how are they doing now?”

The farmer said she had been surprised with how well they had coped, with help from their peers and school.

William finished the call by saying: “Both Catherine and I are glad to hear that support is there for you all as well.  

“The mental health implications as well as the financial implications on everyone is going to take its toll for a while.”

MORE: 15 photos of the royals’ sweetest and funniest moments with animals

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William, Kate and George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney in 2014

William continued: “So I do hope all of you feel that you’ve got that support you’ve got someone you can speak to and somewhere you can go to receive support whether it’s financial or whether it’s just having a chat. Please do look after yourselves.

“Hopefully Catherine and I, when the world goes back to whatever normality we have in the future, we can come and visit you all and see Kangaroo Island for ourselves.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last visited Australia during a royal tour in April 2014 with their then eight-month-old son Prince George.

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