‘Heartbreaking’: 480,000,000 Animals Feared Dead in Aussie Fires
Trigger Warning: Distressing images of animals in the article.
Nearly half a billion animals are feared to have died in the Australian wildfires, including thousands of the koala population in their main habitat in the state of New South Wales.
Ecologists at the University of Sydney have estimated that 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles were killed in the fire, reported Huffington Post.
Australia's annual wildfire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, started early after an unusually warm and dry winter. Record-breaking heat and windy conditions triggered devastating wildfires in New South Wales and Queensland states in September.
Koala Population Significantly Down
Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney alone, reported Associated Press.
The mid-northern coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas, but wildfires have significantly reduced their population in the recent months. Koalas are native to Australia and are one of the country’s most beloved animals, but have been under threat due to a loss of habitat.
“Up to 30 percent of their habitat has been destroyed,” Australia's environment minister Sussan Ley told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”
About five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land has burned, nationwide, during the wildfire crisis, with nine people killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.
Temperatures Expected to Rise Again
At least 20 people have died, dozens are missing, and almost 500 homes have been destroyed, in a months-long bushfire crisis that has torched an area roughly double the size of Belgium.
But with temperatures expected to rise above 40 degrees Celsius again on Saturday, a state of emergency has been declared across much of Australia's heavily populated south-east.
Thousands of residents and tourists have been heeding warnings to flee a popular 300-kilometre length of coastline, with queues of cars stretching towards Sydney and Canberra.
(With inputs from Associated Press, PTI)