The 'mega blaze' ravaging across Australia has resulted in the death of an estimated 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Wildfires have been raging across Australia for weeks now, destroying homes and natural habitats. While the country's politicians continue to ignore the grave environmental issues that threaten the homes of thousands of citizens, almost half a billion animals and plants have succumbed to the natural disaster. The wildfires have claimed an estimated 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles ever since they intensified in September last year, CBS News reports. While at least 17 people, too, have lost their lives to the bushfires, the number of animals lost has been rather staggering. However, official numbers will be determined once the wildfires have subsided and a proper assessment is conducted.
The "mega blaze," as the wildfires have been called, has been responsible for the destruction of about 12.35 million acres of land during the past few months, prompting thousands of Australians to flee to the shoreline from regions such as New South Wales and Victoria. The loss of natural habitats and ecosystems is deeply upsetting, but even more so has been the loss of precious wildlife. As per ecologists at the University of Sydney, the wildfires have claimed the lives of 480 million animals, including about 8,000 koalas. Sadly, the koalas' habitats have also been ravaged by the fires. "Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed," Australia's environment minister, Sussan Ley, explained in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We'll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made."
This number is especially distressing as koalas were already under threat owing to habitat loss. The wildfires have only worsened their condition. In addition to this, distressing videos of kangaroos fleeing their natural habitats have emerged online, causing a major outcry from concerned individuals across the world. Thankfully, animal hospitals across Australia have come to their rescue. Though they have struggled to keep up with the staggering amount of injuries and deaths, expert animal carers are attempting to save and rehabilitate as many animals as possible during this difficult time. Nonetheless, they are vastly underprepared.
The executive director of Science for Wildlife, Dr. Kellie Leigh, informed the Australian parliament during an urgent and impromptu December hearing about the dwindling koala population, "We're getting a lot of lessons out of this and it's just showing how unprepared we are. There's no procedures or protocols in place — even wildlife carers don't have protocols for when they can go in after [the] fire." Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham added during the same hearing, "The fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies."
Of course, there is only one perpetrator to hold accountable for the devastating wildfires: mankind. "The compelling issue here is climate change," Sydney Mayor Clover Moore affirmed. "Yes, Australia is burning and national parks and our native animals are being decimated and our communities are being devastated. People have lost homes. People have died. Firefighters have been killed defending communities, most recently last night... As the driest continent on Earth, we're at the forefront of accelerating global warming. What is happening is a wake-up call for our governments to start making effective contributions to reducing global emissions... It's our national governments that are failing us." While Australia is no stranger to wildfires, the unprecedented intensity with which the blaze has attacked the country's ecosystems over the past few months is a sign of the government's failure to act on rising temperatures. Should Australia ever hope to recover from this natural disaster, it will have to abate manmade climate change before it is far too late.