Australian bushfires impacted 3 billion animals: WWF

By Rocío Otoya Watanabe

Sydney, Australia, Jul 28 (efe-epa).- Around 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by the devastating bushfires last summer in Australia, a preliminary report published on Tuesday said.

The World Wide Fund for Nature’s interim report “Australia’s 2019-2020 Bushfires: The Wildlife Toll,” triples the initial figure and includes some 143 million mammals, 2,46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs.

Australia’s unique fauna is home to some 300 native species including marsupials such as kangaroos and koalas, monotremes such as platypus and echidnas, and placentals such as dingos.

“The interim findings are shocking. It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals. This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman, in a statement.

In January Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney, who oversaw this report led by Lily Van Eeden, estimated that 1.25 billion animals had been affected by forest fires in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, the worst affected.

Then, the scientist considered that many animals that escaped the flames had little chance of surviving, especially due to the lack of food, water and a den, so they would have to move to already occupied places and into more vulnerable conditions in front of their predators.

Van Eeden’s current study, which expands fire damage to an area of ??11.46 million hectares, is also considered an important tool for reviewing the country’s biodiversity and environmental protection laws.

The results of the report represent a wake-up call for Australia and countries vulnerable to extreme fires due to the impact of climate change on biodiversity.

“How quickly can we decarbonize? How quickly can we stop our manic land clearing? We land clear at a rate that’s one of the highest in the world,” said Dickman in a statement on this new study, of which the final is expected to be presented at the end of August.

The bushfires, baptized in the country as the “Black Summer” and which killed 34 people and burned an area similar to that of Uruguay, began in September and lasted until the end of February.

Another of Australia’s worst fires, dubbed “Black Saturday,” began on Feb. 7, 2009 when temperatures rose to 46.4 degrees Celsius and caused 173 fatalities, a tragedy considered the worst natural disaster in the country’s modern history. EFE-EPA


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