SYDNEY: Australia wildfires have taken a heavy toll on animal life. A study by the University of Sydney said close to half a billion animals and plants have been wiped out in the bush fires that erupted since September last year.
Around 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles are feared to have died in the fires. Raging fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands of people fled to the shoreline from New South Wales and Victoria.
According to official estimates, 12.35 million acres of land have burned nationwide and 18 people have been killed so far. Media reports have shown devastating images and videos of kangaroos fleeing burning forests and charred bodies of koalas on the ground. The fires have killed nearly 8,000 koalas.
The region lies around 240 miles north of Sydney and is home to the largest number of Australia’s koalas, with a population of up to 28,000. They are already under threat from habitat loss. Koalas are slow-moving and only eat leaves of the eucalyptus tree that are highly flammable.
The devastating effects of the fires on creatures was highlighted by Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham, according to Digital Journal.
In a briefing to parliament, Graham said, “The fires burned so hot and fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, a big area that is still on fire and we will probably never find the bodies.”
“We’re getting a lot of lessons out of this and it’s just showing how unprepared we are,” Science for Wildlife executive director Dr. Kellie Leigh also told parliament in December during a hearing.
More than 100 fires continue to rage across the country having consumed more than five million hectares of land. Nine people have died and hundreds of homes have been razed to the ground. About four million hectares have been burnt in New South Wales alone.
As well as being one of Australia’s most populous koala habitats, the mid-north coast region also houses one of the country’s main koala hospitals.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital reportedly treated 72 badly burnt animals on Christmas Day. There is no certainty how those populations and ecosystems will recover. Additionally, many rare plant species have disappeared completely.
A fund-raising page for the hospital has received more than $2 million AUD since September, the largest single amount raised on the site in Australian history.