Australian blazes damage 3 billion animals

AFP
Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia's unprecedented 2019-20 wildfires in "one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history."
AFP

Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s unprecedented 2019-20 wildfires in “one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” according to a report released on Tuesday.

The study by scientists from several Australian universities said the wildlife hit included 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs.

While the report did not say how many animals died because of the fires, the prospects for those that escaped “were probably not great” due to a lack of food, shelter and protection from predators, said Chris Dickman, one of its authors.

The fires ravaged more than 115,000 square kilometers of drought-stricken bushland and forest across Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, killing more than 30 people and destroying thousands of homes.

It was the broadest and most prolonged bushfire season in modern Australian history, with scientists attributing the severity of the crisis to the impacts of climate change.

The survey released yesterday was the first to cover fire zones across the continent.

“It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals,” said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of the Australian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature, which commissioned the report.

“This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” he added.

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