The bushfires in Australia are essentially becoming old news: the country is burning. Exclamation point. But what has been less discussed is the consequences to wildlife. Not only is the bush catching fire, but the innumerable animal and other plant and insect species are beyond vulnerable. Several types of animals are especially at risk, namely koalas and kangaroos, though camels made the list because of the damage they did to nearby towns on their search for water. The Australian government has pledged to dedicate $50 million to help animals to safety, but with 1 billion of them already gone, the fires have done some very heavy damage. That number is not counting fish, insects, frogs, or insects.
There are certain species of animals that are especially at risk. The inhabitants of Kangaroo Island are especially at risk, particularly the glossy black cockatoo and the Kangaroo Island dunnart. Both of these types of animals have been part of conservation programs that as much as quadrupled their numbers, but all of these efforts are now naught with 50 to 60 percent of the habitats having disappeared because of the fires. The cockatoo, in particular, saw their numbers at one hundred and fifty in the 1990s to up to four hundred before the fires. The dunnart, on the other hand, is a small marsupial that is found nowhere else in Australia and is already listed as an endangered species. Sadly, the cameras that were placed to observe the species melted in the fires, thus destroying all of their footage.
The fires that happened in New South Wales in the fall destroyed the habitats of some of the cutest animals in the country: the koala. Furthermore, fires in Victoria also put these creatures at risk. Thousands of these animals are known to have passed on as a result, both through direct and indirect causes. For example, because koalas primarily eat eucalyptus, which contains highly flammable oils, they have barely been able to access their source of nourishment. Furthermore, these animals have been disproportionately affected by the fires because they are quite slow-moving and, therefore, not able to escape as effectively as some of their peers. It is in New South Wales that the greatest number of koalas have disappeared, with approximately 8,000 koalas having been taken over by the blaze.
The brush-tailed rock-wallaby has also tremendously suffered from the fires, a huge problem because they are already listed as a nationally vulnerable species and are especially at risk in New South Wales. Even though the creatures are resourceful, the bottom line is that their habitats and food sources are being destroyed. In a gesture of kindness, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has organized airdrops of sweet potatoes and carrots in order to support the dwindling population of brush-tailed rock wallabies.
But even once the fires will have gone out, it will be quite challenging to assess what part of the ecosystems was damaged and, more specifically, how they will be repaired. Euan Ritchie, a wildlife ecologist at Deakin University, said that systems could take from a few years to a century to recover. Sadly, he said that some “may not ever recover to anything like their former condition.” But he is especially concerned that “some of these burnt areas may burn again in the near future, due to the impacts of climate change.” Ritchie is especially adamant about getting into areas once it’s safe to do so, and begin the work of surveying plant and animal populations.”