Almost 480 million animals are expected to have died in the bushfires sweeping Australia which included a third of the koalas in New South Wales’s main habitat. Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate nearly 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been killed, directly or indirectly, by the fire since they began in September, according to The Times. This also includes almost 8,000 koalas, which are believed to have burnt to death on the mid-north coast.
Federal environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC “up to 30 per cent of the population in that region” may have been killed. “We’ll know more when the fires have calmed down and a proper assessment can be made,” she added.
Nine people have died and hundreds of houses have been razed to the ground during the bushfire season. About four million hectares have been burnt in New South Wales as well.
Australia bush fires hit ‘catastrophic level – In pictures
“We have teams on roster for capture if any are in trouble and they are available 24 hours a day,” she told Reuters.
According to Mark Graham, an ecologist with the Nature Conservation Council, koalas “have no capacity to move fast enough to get away” from fires that spread from treetop to treetop. The fires have burnt 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.”
“We’ve lost such a massive swathe of known koala habitat that I think we can say without any doubt there will be ongoing declines in koala populations from this point forward,” he added.
The scorched regions also included nature reserves in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and parts of the Gondwana rainforests as well which have existed since the time of the dinosaurs and are the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world too.