Nearly half a billion animals have died in the devastating Australia bushfires according to ecologists at the University of Sydney. It is estimated that around 480 million animals have died since the blazes started back in September.
This figure includes large numbers of birds, reptiles, mammals and over 8,000 koalas. Environmentalists are now calling for koalas to be reclassified from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘critically endangered’ because of the death toll. Mark Graham, a Nature Conservation Council ecologist said that koalas “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”
Continuing his assessment to the Australian government, he said: “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.”
Funding is pouring into the country. One online fundraising campaign run by comedian Celeste Barber has raised over $32 million to help emergency services in Australia. The proceeds are to be sent to multiple fire departments including the NSW Rural Fire Service, Victoria’s Country Fire Authority and South Australia’s Country Fire Service. Two firefighters have already lost their lives whilst helping to tackle the aggressive fires.
The bushfires have turned south-east Australia into a charred wasteland, with more to follow in the Summer months this year.
Around five million hectares have been consumed by the fires so far with the figure set to rise further. Over twenty people have lost their lives since the wildfires started.
High temperatures and strong winds are said to be the cause of the spreading fires. However, rain falling in some areas of Australia is expected to halt some of the fires from spreading further.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that A$2bn ($1.4bn; £1.1bn) would be allocated towards the recovery of the country over the next two years. More news to follow.