A heartbreaking cartoon showing Steve Irwin welcoming animals killed in the Australian bushfires has the internet devastated.
Twenty-two year-old artist Shania-Mae Sturm, known as Sketchy Koala, posted the image on her Facebook and Instagram accounts shortly after news of the fires in Australia broke. The sketch shows the late Steve Irwin greeting a group of kangaroos, ostriches, koalas and other Australian animals with open arms.
"Don't worry little guys! I'll take care of you!" he says in the comic.
"This little tribute drawing goes to all the innocent animals caught in the blazes across my home country, it breaks my heart to see it’s still going on but there’s only so much that can be done to keep it from spreading," Sturm wrote on her Facebook account. "I hope all the animals who couldn’t make it are now in heaven with Steve Irwin, being taken care of, and not having a care in the world or memory of how they got there. Rest In Peace fuzzy babies, we will miss you."
Sturm lived in Australia until March 2019, when she moved to the Atlanta area. Her family still lives in Western Australia. The 22-year-old says the inspiration for the cartoon came to her because she was feeling helpless in America watching her country burn.
"I felt like I needed to do something, and the drawing came to mind," she said. "I spent about three weeks on it, perfecting it with the hopes of bringing relief to people worried about the animals."
As of Jan. 8, the Facebook post has more than 3,500 comments and 30,000 shares. Sturm said she received so many likes and comments on her Instagram post that the social network deactivated her account, due to suspicion that the likes and comments were false.
"'I guess it's from the sudden outburst of people liking commenting and sharing my drawing. I'm working on getting it back online though! Thank you all for your love and support," she wrote.
"You are incredible," Facebook user Alexandra Ava-Louise Roach commented. "I’m actually crying seeing this. My daughter has asked where all the animals have gone after they passed away from the fires and now I can show her this and she will be able to understand. Thank you thank you."
For Sturm, the outpouring of support for her art has been "absolutely amazing."
"I never thought in my wildest dream that this could happen," she said. "I thought 'maybe one day my art would be popular' but I didn't expect it to be so soon. I appreciate everyone's love and support!"
The bushfires in Australia have killed more than two dozen people and destroyed 2,000 homes. U.S. officials said Tuesday they would send at least another 100 firefighters to the country to join the 159 American firefighters already there battling the blaze.