UC Davis couple helps Australia’s wildlife

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) -- Several animals are on the mend in Australia thanks to veterinarians from the University of California, Davis.

Diagnostic imaging professor Eric Johnson and his wife, Jamie Peyton, have been evacuated six times during California's wildfires. That was reason enough for the couple to make their way to Australia.

Peyton is chief of integrated medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She has a passion for treating burned wildlife.

"We organized fundraising and got all our supplies and headed that direction,” Peyton told FOX40.

With the cooperation of vets from the University of Sydney, they dove in, using the experience they got from treating animals during Northern California's wildfires.

“We have a number of animals at our home that also are in need of evacuation,” Johnson said. “So it really struck close to our hearts.”

Of course, there were animals they have never treated before, including panicked kangaroos that often ran through the fires.

"Run sometimes into the flames and we saw a lot of burns on their feet primarily,” Johnson explained.

It was Peyton who helped develop the tilapia fish skin grafts that helped California wildlife heal.

She said getting special permission to bring the fish skin into Australia was worthwhile.

"We saw a reduction in pain. We saw improved healing,” she said.

That brought one of their most satisfying moments of the rescue trip involving a large male kangaroo.

"We treated with the tilapia fish skins and a week later we went and looked at him again and we were able to release him,” Peyton said.

The couple hopes to create an international network of rescuers versed in burn treatment techniques. They said they see a need because there seems to be an increase in wildfires worldwide.

"Unfortunately, for all of us, I don't think this issue is going away,” Peyton said.

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