About 480 million animals may already have died in the fires that are ravaging in Australia.
At least five million hectares have been destroyed by fire since September in Australia. The human toll is heavy – nine dead so far – but what about the animal world? Difficult to date to communicate exact figures, but according to a team of environmentalists of the University of Sydney, the toll could amount to 480 million victims.
8,000 koalas killed
This estimate takes into account the populations of birds, reptiles, and mammals but not insects. A real animal tragedy while a hundred bush fires still rage today. In this sample, the researchers estimate that approximately 8,000 koalas perished in flames on the north coast of New South Wales. Almost a third of their workforce in the region.
“Up to 30% of the koalas in this region could have disappeared, because around 30% of their habitat has been destroyed,” said Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley. We will know more when the fires have subsided and an appropriate assessment can be made. “
Koalas, in addition to being relatively slow (unlike kangaroos, for example), tend to take refuge in the treetops. They are thus more exposed to smoke and flames. The Port Macquarie Koala, one of the country’s largest animal hospitals, is said to have collected and treated 72 of these severely burned marsupials just on Christmas Day.
A Gofundme page set up by the hospital has already raised almost two million euros since September. The money is currently used for two main purposes: to treat injured animals and to provide water to people affected by dehydration due to fires.
For its part, the Ministry of the Environment has just announced the upcoming release of six million Australian dollars (3.75 million euros). These funds will be used to set up new corridors to protect the koalas, with the aim of thus promoting the return to the wild of this emblematic and vulnerable marsupial.
A functionally extinct species?
In addition to the bush fires, it is recalled that the koalas are also victims of land clearing in the country, which to date has eliminated 80% of the marsupial’s natural habitat. This species is also prone to eucalyptus diseases.
It is not known exactly how many of these animals are still in the wild, but some censuses suggest that there are fewer than 80,000. If the numbers are confirmed, scientists fear that the species may become functionally extinct. In other words, these more numerous animals may soon no longer produce viable new generations.