Habitats of several animals such as bats, koalas and kangaroos have been affected. Many of them are suspected to be on the verge of being extinct.
The raging bushfires and catastrophic destruction on the Australian continent have disrupted the balance of the country. While it has burned down houses and caused the death of numerous of residents, the ones most affected by the tragedy are undoubtedly the animals. After all, it is their home that's been destroyed by the fires at a startling rate. According to the Huffington Post, more than 1 billion animals are estimated to have died due to the fires since the beginning of the fire season in late July 2019.
Stuart Blanch, an environmental scientist at the World Wildlife Fund Australia confirmed that the estimate was only a modest guess. “It’s our climate impact and our obsession with coal that is helping wage war on our own country,” said Blanch.
Experts also announced a staggering list of animals who are either on the verge of extinction or whose habitats have been critically affected. Endangered species such as the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum have been threatened since the fires have wiped out their natural habitat in Victoria’s Alpine National Park and New South Wales’s neighboring Kosciuszko National Park.
Kangaroos hop uphill in smoky New South Wales to escape the smoke and raging fires in Australia. The country's bushfires have scorched millions of acres, putting millions of people and animals at risk.— WIRED (@WIRED) January 4, 2020
Welcome to the hellish future of life on Earth. https://t.co/yG8H95JHEm pic.twitter.com/3BTVqFSVPs
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney said that the enormous bat population along Australia’s east coast has also been gravely affected by the fire. “The numbers would have to be huge. And they’re very susceptible to the fires,” said the ecologist.
Glossy black cockatoo, spotted-tail quoll and long-footed potoroo (both small marsupials) are few other species that are facing the risk of being extinct. Kangaroo Island, famous for its large wilderness that supports the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart has also been consumed by the fires. According to CNN, NASA estimated that about 600 square miles of the island home to sea lions, koalas and diverse bird species have been ravaged by the fires.
Koalas have possibly suffered the biggest loss in the destruction. Having lost close to 30% of their habitat in New South Wales, about a third of the Koala population perished in the region. And the recovery of the species would not be easy, according to Dickman. The ecologist said that their revival is largely dependant on the availability of eucalyptus tree leaves which have been wiped away in the blazing fires.
Apart from the forest animals, hundreds of thousands of livestock have also perished. According to the agriculture market analysis company Mecardo, about 8.6 million heads of sheep and 2.3 million cattle were affected in the disaster. However, authorities and experts are unaware of the exact number. Disturbing images and footages of dead, charred animals along with the heavily injured kangaroos, koalas have been shared on social media recently.
“Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources, and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes,” stated the University of Sydney ecologists.
Though bushfires are normal to the Australian ecosystem, the increased frequency and intensity of the recent bushfires have raised concerns among people. Dickman suggested that the only way to preserve the remaining animals and their habitats is by including ecologists and environmental scientists in policymaking. WWF Australia’s environmental scientists have even formulated a three-part action plan to save the country from future crises.
“One, reduce the threat by ending logging or bulldozing of mature forests... Secondly, a 10 million hectare major reforestation agenda, and, thirdly, in the very short term, more support for wildlife carers and wildlife hospitals around the country,” said Blanch.