Nearly Half A Billion Animals Have Died In Australian Wildfires

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 

Startling photos reveal kangaroos and koalas trying to survive amid the burning brush

Nearly half a billion mammals, birds, and reptiles are feared dead, according to ecologists from the University of Sydney. They’re estimating 480 million animals have been lost since wildfires started ravaging Australia back in September — and more will suffer, as flames continue to run rampant through the states of Victoria and New South Wales.

Tons of homes along Australia’s east coast have also been razed to the ground, leaving thousands of residents stranded and forcing many people to take shelter in the only place safe from the wildfire — the ocean. Harrowing images show captured kangaroos desperately attempting to flee great walls of flames while rescue teams have been met by the charred bodies of thousands of koalas.

Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Getty Images

The images of animals trying to flee — and those who were lucky enough to be rescued — are truly heartbreaking.

The estimated death toll included up to 8,000 koalas, according to the federal environment minister Sussan Ley, who tells ABC Radio that up to 30 percent of the species in New South Wales may have been completely wiped out.

The area is home to a huge portion of Australia’s koalas, with an estimated population of between 15,000 to 28,000.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Once the fires calm down or cease altogether an official estimation and assessment can be made, Ley says. But for now, it’s clear that hundreds of millions of animals haven’t survived.

Koalas have been among the most vulnerable of Australia’s native animals during the wildfires because they are slow-moving and only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree — which are filled with oil, making them highly flammable.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham told Australian parliament that the fires have burned “so hot and so fast” that the mortality of local animals has been significant, especially those that reside in trees.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

‘There is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies,” Graham says.

According to HuffPost, Laurence Goodheart of New South Wales has spotted many dead animals amid the current heatwave.“We’ve got dead birds everywhere. They fell out of the sky,” he said.

Last year, the Amazon wildfires continued throughout much of 2019. The flames and smoke had grown so damaging, it was visible from outer space.

Towns in NSW and Victoria are said to be running out of fuel and water, as stores are selling out of basic supplies. Helicopters will help evacuate 4,000 people stranded in Victoria’s East Gippsland where families have been sheltering on beaches. It’s the largest-ever relocation of people from the New South Wales South Coast to ever take place.

WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Telephone lines and the internet are down in some isolated towns and communities have been told to boil water which may not be safe to drink. Weather forecasters have warned conditions are likely to get worse again this weekend, with strong winds and temperatures expected to reach 46°C (114° Fahrenheit).

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