WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- As Australia’s bushfires continue to terrorize the country, the number of wildlife that has died is increasing.
- The number of dead animals now estimated at more than one billion, according to Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney.
- Koalas have lost over 30% of their main habitat in New South Wales and may have lost a third of their population in that area, federal environment minister Sussan Ley told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The number of wildlife believed to have died in Australia’s wildfires has increased to more than 1 billion.
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that his original estimate of 480 million animals was conservative and was also exclusive to the state of New South Wales and excluded significant groups of wildlife for which they had no population data.
“The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone,” he said.
“If 800 million sounds a lot ― it’s not all the animals in the firing line,” he added.
That figure excluded animals including bats, frogs and invertebrates. With these numbers included, Dickman said, it was “without any doubt at all” that the losses exceeded 1 billion. “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure,” he said.
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This is patient number 90,000 that the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital has treated. ‘Ollie’ the orphaned platypus is receiving round the clock care until he can be released back to the wild. Over the last 16 years, the hospital has provided 24/7 wildlife rehabilitation and an incredible animal rescue service. We’re so proud of this world-class facility! Thank you for your support – with pressures from drought to bushfires, wildlife need our help now more than ever.
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An environmental scientist at the World Wildlife Fund Australia, Stuart Blanch, confirmed these estimates, saying that, given the expansion of the fires since the last calculations, 1 billion was a modest guess.
“It’s our climate impact and our obsession with coal that is helping wage war on our own country,” Blanch said.
Critically endangered species, including the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum, could be wiped out as fires ravage crucial habitat in Victoria’s Alpine National Park and New South Wales’s neighboring Kosciuszko National Park.
Threatened species, such as the glossy black cockatoo, spotted-tail quoll and long-footed potoroo (both small marsupials), are also facing real risks of extinction in large parts of their range.
Dickman said bats, which have enormous populations along Australia’s east coast and are critically dependent on forest habitat, undoubtedly also sustained enormous losses.
“The numbers would have to be huge. And they’re very susceptible to the fires,” he said.
Over the weekend, Australia Zoo’s Bindi Irwin shared sad news from the zoo’s wildlife hospital.
“In September, flying fox admissions to the hospital skyrocketed by over 750% due to drought conditions and lack of food,” she wrote. “Flying foxes are now being drastically affected by wildfires and we’re again seeing an influx of these beautiful animals from across the country.”
Koalas have lost more than 30% of their key habitat in New South Wales and may have lost a third of their population in that region, federal environment minister Sussan Ley told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Dickman said it would be a “tough” recovery for the iconic Australian marsupial, dependent on the availability of their food ― eucalyptus tree leaves ― after the blazes sweep through.