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WWF: Australian Bushfires Affected 3 Billion Animals

July 29, 2020, 08.10 PM

SYDNEY, – A WWF study revealed that nearly 3 billion koalas, kangaroos, and other native animals were killed or displaced by the Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020.

The findings written in the WWF for Nature report was triple the organization’s earlier estimates.

The Australian bushfires destroyed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) across the Australian southeast. That is equivalent to half the area of the United Kingdom.

At the time of the Australian bushfires, the WWF estimated that 1.25 billion animals were affected.

The WWF reported as many as 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs were impacted by Australia’s worst bushfires in decades.

It has raised the figure mainly because researchers have now assessed the total affected area rather than focusing on the most affected states.

"This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history," said WWF-Australia Chief Executive Officer Dermot O'Gorman.

The WWF said it used various techniques to estimate animal populations, including using data from over 100,000 surveys. It said models could then accurately estimate animals found in areas destroyed by fire.

Project leader Lily Van Eeden from the University of Sydney said the research was the first continent-wide analysis of animals impacted by the bushfires.

"Other nations can build upon this research to improve understanding of bushfire impacts everywhere," she said.

The total includes animals displaced because of destroyed habitats and which now face a lack of food and shelter or the prospect of moving to already occupied habitats.

Researchers said the destruction will see some species become extinct before their existence is even recorded.

"We don't even know what we are losing," said Chris Dickman, Professor in Ecology at the University of Sydney.

"These were species that were here and now they have gone... It's almost too tragic to think about."

After years of drought made the Australian bush unusually dry, the country battled one of its worst-ever bushfire seasons from September through March, causing 34 human deaths and nearly 3,000 homes lost.

(Writers: Byron Kaye, Colin Packham | Editors: Christian Schmollinger, Christopher Cushing)


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