A cartoon of Steve Irwin welcoming animals that have died in the bushfires to heaven has gone viral.
Sharnia-Mae Sturm, from Atlanta, the United States, posted the heart-rending sketch to her Instagram account on New Year’s Eve to help raise awareness of the devastating impact the fires are having on the country’s wildlife.
The illustration shows the late Irwin greeting a host of the country’s animals that have perished in the fires, including kangaroos, koalas and others.
Kneeling down with his arms wife open, the Crocodile Hunter can be seen saying: “Don’t worry little guys! I’ll take care of you!”
And it didn’t take long for the picture to gain traction online, and just a few days later it had already been shared widely across social media.
The Georgia native has since said her account was inundated with so many likes and comments that it was deleted.
Writing on her Sketchy Koala Facebook page, Sharnia-Mae said she hopes Steve is looking after the deceased animals in heaven.
She wrote: “So… it’s sad to say that I’ve spent about 3 weeks or so on this and the subject is still relevant.
“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.
“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.”
This post also received an outpouring of emotion from people touched by gesture.
One mum wrote: “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.”
A second person commented: “I love these drawings, they say it all, well done, it touched my heart.”
A third said: “Just beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to do this and share it.”
While another added: “This is absolutely beautiful. Actually made me cry. I love Steve Irwin and still can’t believe he’s gone. Our loss of animals is so truly heartbreaking.”
Sharnia-Mae later thanked people for getting in touch, writing: “I appreciate all this love and support more than you can believe. I’m so happy to see many people be so touched by this.”
Featured Image Credit: SketchyKoala