Nearly Half A Billion Animals Have Died In Australian Bushfires Since September
Australians have been glued to the news about the bushfire crisis that is gripping so many parts of the country. More than a dozen people have been killed and hundreds of homes have been lost around Australia.
In addition to that tragedy is the number of animals that have been killed in bushfires since September.
Ecologists from the University of Sydney have warned that around 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have died. Nearly half a billion. Let that sink in for a moment.
Science for Wildlife executive director Dr Kellie Leigh told the New South Wales upper house inquiry: "We're getting a lot of lessons out of this and it's just showing how unprepared we are.
"There's no procedures or protocols in place - even wildlife carers don't have protocols for when they can go in after fire."
Many species have been affected in Australia - which is home to various indigenous fauna including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats and echidnas - but koalas are feared to be among the hardest hit, with an estimated 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country's northeast coast thought to be lost.
Tracy Burgess, a volunteer at Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (WIRES), said it was concerning that rescuers were not receiving as many animal patients as they would expect.
Burgess told Reuters: "We're not getting that many animals coming into care. So, our concern is that they don't come into care because they're not there anymore, basically."
WIRES receives limited government funding, meaning it relies heavily on donations from the public, along with help from volunteers like Burgess who care for the animals in their own homes.
There are concerns that many wildlife communities will need human assistance to get populations anywhere close to where they were before the bushfires.
Professor of conservation biology at the University of Sydney Mike Letnic told the Sydney Morning Herald: "With the climate being so dry at the moment, and the intensity of these fires, wet gully areas and so on that normally escape the worst of it have been burnt.
"Animals that typically survive in these patches that don't burn can recolonise from these refuges, but there may be too few pathways to allow for effective recolonisation. It will depend on how many refuges are left."
Flying foxes have been decimated as a result of the NSW south coast fires, with many babies being abandoned by their mothers due to the smoke, ash and fire.
It's still too early to predict how many more animals will be lost to the bushfires as many are still raging out of control across the country. No doubt, once they are extinguished or calm down, experts will be able to survey the land properly and give an update.
Featured Image Credit: Peter Luker/Caters