Australia’s ‘black summer’ bushfires hit 60,000 koalas: WWF

Sydney, Australia, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- More than 60,000 koalas have been killed or forced out of their habitat due to the Australian bushfires last “black summer,” according to a World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia study published on Monday.

The impact assessment study details the effects of the catastrophe on the fauna of Australia that is home to some of the unique wildlife species.

The fires, which began in September last year, before the start of the austral summer, and lasted until the end of February this year, burned vast swathes of forests and affected more than three billion animals.

The impacts of the fires include death, injury, trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, loss of habitat, reduced food supply, increased predation risk, and conflict with other animals after fleeing to an unburnt forest.

The fires also led to a reduced food supply, increased predation risk, and conflict with other animals, according to the study by WWF-Australia.

The report, “Impacts of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires on Australian animals,” notes that the fires impacted over 41,000 koalas on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island and another 11,000 in the southern state of Victoria.

Besides, the fires affected almost 8,000 koalas in New South Wales, from where images of residents trying to save these animals from burned trees went viral on social media, as well as another 900 in Queensland, both states in the east of Australia.

Koalas, which are particularly vulnerable to any changes in the environment, sleep for about 20 hours a day and use the remaining four hours to feed on the leaves of various species of eucalypts, which were destroyed by the bushfires.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that koalas in New South Wales and Queensland were in rapid decline before the fires due to the loss of their habitat or diseases such as chlamydia, which can even kill them.

“Sixty thousand koalas impacted is a deeply disturbing number for a species already in trouble,” he said in a statement published Monday.

WWF-Australia noted that the study confirms the initial estimate given in the interim version of the report, which was published in July, that 3 billion animals were impacted by the bushfires, including some 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 181 million birds, and 51 million frogs.

The organization launched the “Koalas Forever” initiative, which includes “a trial of seed dispersing drones to create koala corridors and the establishment of a fund to encourage landowners to create koala safe havens.”

“WWF is determined to help restore wildlife and habitats, rejuvenate communities impacted by the bushfires, boost sustainable agriculture and future-proof our country,” O’Gorman said. EFE-EPA


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