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Number of koalas dwindle as fires consume habitat

by Brianna Bush - Executive Editor
Thu, Nov 21st 2019 01:00 pm
Wildfires have been plaguing Australia since the beginning of November. These fires are not only burning down many residences but are destroying the habitats of koalas and other animals causing harm to them.
Wildfires have been plaguing Australia since the beginning of November. These fires are not only burning down many residences but are destroying the habitats of koalas and other animals causing harm to them.

Since the beginning of November brush fires have been devouring the east coast of Australia killing and/or maiming the animals that call the area home. Australia is famous for having annual fires that wreak havoc on the surrounding shrubs, and this recent fire is only the start to the season.

According to The New York Times, Australia’s fire season has grown longer over the years because the land has become drier — providing the fire with an ample fuel supply. This ignited a new discussion about climate change and how these fires are affecting different species’ rates of survival.

One species stands out against the others — koalas, which are listed as “threatened” on the Endangered Species list, are among the animals that were caught in the heat of the fires. The Times reported that many of the fires reached temperatures close to 107 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving many of the animals dehydrated, singed, burned and/or dead.

 Professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania David Bowman, commented to The Times about how even the swamps were burning and how climate change and human impact have modified the land where the fires are currently burning. 

“The government needs to rethink its approach to conservation, Dr. Bowman said, suggesting interventions like irrigating, feeding and relocating animals,” The Times stated.

These fires are causing all kinds of destruction when it comes to the animals that live in the brush, especially the koalas. Many of them are said to be lucky to come out on the other side with singed ears and burnt fur. 

National Geographic stated koalas are now drinking excessive amounts of water “because of hot, dry weather aggravated by climate change.” These climate changes only seem to be getting worse over time as we can see more natural disasters like wildfires and tropical storms occurring more often, as well as more aggressively.

The animal hospitals in Australia have been overflowing with the burn ridden marsupials and smithsonianmag.com stated the clinics were overwhelmed. In order to help out a GoFundMe page has raised $650,000. After the release of a heart-wrenching video of a singed koala, there was a “spike” in the number of donations made.

There are still many concerns when it comes to the fires continuing to rage, even after helicopters dropped gallons of water on the blaze.

“We are very, very concerned,” Koala Conservation Australia President Sue Ashton said to USA Today. “If the wind picks up, we could lose even more habitat and more koalas. It’s just so unpredictable — we don’t know what will happen.”

According to National Geographic there are around 60,000 koalas left on earth — which is why they are on the endangered species list — The fires that continue to burn through koala colonies have already killed hundreds of the species and if not put under control will continue to kill more.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital Clinical Director Cheyne Flanagan commented on the devastating statistics of the fires and koalas.

“We crunched the numbers up to 350, but these fires have gotten worse, and the numbers are probably higher,” Flanagan told Australia’s ABC News. “We are not finding bodies because they are incinerating to ash.”

Like the fires that have been burning on the Californian coast, these fires in Australia are reported to be out of control and have destroyed many homes in its wake. Governments around the world need to recognize that things will continue to get worse if nothing changes because in order to remain on this earth we have to sustain what we have and then make it better.

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Taken by Vinny Croce:
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