Australian Bushfires Have Already Claimed Half A Billion Animals
Ecologists watching the devastating bushfires blaze across regions of Australia are warning that almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began in September — and entire species could potentially be wiped out before the situation ends.
NZ Herald reported that the estimate of 480 million animal deaths, put out by ecologists from the University of Sydney, is likely to rise significantly after fires have razed land and homes in Victoria and the NSW South Coast.
Most at risk is the country’s koala population “because they are slow moving and only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree, which are filled with oil, making them highly flammable.”
Estimates for the NSW mid-north coast region are currently put losses at about 8,000 — or about one-third of the areas koala population.
"The fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies," Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham said during an address to parliament.
Other species have been hit hard as well, NZ Herald noted, writing that “Harrowing scenes of kangaroos fleeing walls of fire, charred bodies of koalas and cockatoos falling dead out of trees have horrified the world as it tries to take in the scale of the unfolding disaster.”
Experts have suggested that because of the extraordinary ecological devastation, logging of native forests in NSW should be halted until the impacts of the bushfires can be properly assessed.
"The effects of the catastrophic fires have been so far-reaching that allowing further loss of habitat and impact on native species would be unconscionable,” Stand Up for Nature, an alliance of 13 organizations, wrote in a letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. "Without this information, the sustainability of harvesting operations cannot be guaranteed. These unprecedented fires have jeopardised the long-term viability of threatened species populations and forest ecosystems in several areas."
"We therefore call on the government to ensure logging industry workers are supported during this process, either with alternative employment options, financial assistance or other worthwhile alternatives. We stand ready to engage constructively with the industry and government to achieve this goal."