Devastating photos of injured and dead animals have emerged on social media as catastrophic fires continue to ravage 12.35 million acres of Australian bush. Several threatened species are expected to face extinction. The flames have pushed back conservation efforts by decades.
According to the Metro, ecologists at the University of Sydney predict nearly 480,000,000 mammals, birds and reptiles have died since September 2019 when the bush fires started.
Footage of kangaroos and birds fleeing the fires have been posted, but the animals running and flying away are not promises they have survived. The fires are so widespread, safe places for the animals to escape are virtually impossible for them to find.
“We know that the species that can’t fly away – like koalas and greater gliders – are gone in burnt areas. Wombats may survive as they’re underground but, even if they do escape the immediate fire front, there’s essentially no food for them in a burnt landscape,” stated Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University.
Although fires have always been part of the Australian bush areas, there have always been extensive safe patches where various species could escape to hide.
“This is a harbinger of a bleak future for our wildlife,” Prof. Woinarski continued. “They have set back conservation in Australia for a very long period, but are a sign of an even more bleak future ahead. Because of climate change, they will become more frequent and more severe. It’s a sad time for conservation in Australia.”
Scientists have used previous research to estimate the 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles affected by the fires. The numbers are expected to rise. Even animals that have been spared death by the fires are so badly burned and suffering, the only humane act to do is to euthanize them.
Koalas are slow moving and only eat eucalyptus leaves which are filled with oil and extremely flammable. More than 8,000 koalas are believed to have been killed since September.
Just in the past few days, fires have ripped through Victoria and New South Wales, calling for evacuations leaving many residents stranded while their homes have burnt to the ground.
Donate to WIRES, a wildlife rescue nonprofit that is rescuing and caring for thousands of sick, injured and orphaned native animals.
Donate to the World Wildlife Fund Australia, which is directing its efforts towards koala conservation.
Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital‘s GoFundMe, which has rescued and treated dozens of koalas suffering from severe burns. The hospital is using donations to install automatic drinking stations in burnt areas to help wildlife searching for water and to establish a wild koala breeding program to ensure the survival of the species.
Donate to the RSPCA New South Wales, which is helping evacuate, rescue and treat pets and wildlife in threatened areas.