Animal

More than 2,000 koalas dead after Australian bush fires


At least 2,000 koalas have been pronounced dead in the tragedy (Picture: Getty/Reuters)

Thousands of koala bears have tragically died as the Australian bush fires continue to rip through the north coast of New South Wales.

Experts said the blaze has ravaged koala habitat so rapidly that ‘we will probably never find the bodies’, after thousands of hectares of habitat were destroyed.

An urgent parliament inquiry is expected to hear evidence on Monday that more than 2,000 have been confirmed dead, after succumbing to their horrific burns.

Around 90 fires are still ripping through NSW – half of which are thought to be uncontained – and the country is braced for a heatwave this week.

Experts fear more of the vulnerable animals’ habitat will be burnt to the ground, as the ‘mega fire’ on the outskirts of Sydney measuring more than 335,000 hectares, could take weeks to put out.

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the Nature Conservation Council, told the hearing that koalas ‘really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away’.

A koala named Rose from Thrumster recovers from burns at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (Picture: Getty)
Thousands of hectares have been burnt down (Picture: EPA)
Koalas are being cared for by volunteers but many are dying from injuries (Picture: Koala Hospital Port Macquarie)
A koala named Paul from Lake Innes Nature Reserve being treated for burns (Picture: Getty)

As the crown fires are spreading from treetops, they have no way of getting to the ground in time to avoid injury.

Mr Graham said: ‘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’.

‘We’ve lost such a massive swath of known koala habitat that I think we can say without any doubt there will be ongoing declines in koala populations from this point forward,’ he added.

Volunteers from the The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital have been working alongside National Parks and Wildlife Service crews searching for koalas following weeks of devastating fires across NSW and Queensland.

Koalas are listed as vulnerable in NSW, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, mostly due to habitat clearing.

A koala named Kate from Bellangry State Forest for burns (Picture: Getty)
Hundreds of bush fires have devastated the habitat
Fire and Rescue NSW team give water to a koala as they rescue it from fire in Jacky Bulbin Flat, New South Wales (Picture: Reuters)
A koala named Frizzle from Taree is treated (Picture: Getty)

The hearing is set to analyse the extent of damage done to the koala population, while ecologists warned there was no planning in place to rescue the animals.

Science for Wildlife executive director, Dr Kellie Leigh, told the hearing: ‘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 fire.’

She added: ‘We’re just helpless at the moment. [With] business as usual we have no way to deal with this, no way to manage it.’

North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh said more than 2,000 koalas are estimated to have died in the fires, while up to one-third of the habitat has been lost on the north coast.

On Sunday, Cate Faehrmann, chair of the inquiry, said the ‘devastating’ loss of so many animals should push authorities to introduce stronger conservation efforts.

A firefighter conducts back burning measures to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires at the Mangrove area in Central Coast (Picture: AFP)
A woman, who said her name was Toni, was seen on video taking off her shirt and charging into the flames to save a koala (Picture: Elliot Wagland)
A koala named Sharni from Crowdy Bay National Park is staying at the hospital (Picture: Getty)

She said: ‘Hearing that we have lost up to a third of koala habitat and more than 2,000 koalas on the north coast is utterly devastating and should be a wake-up call for this government’.

Fires are raging across the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

The ‘mega fire’ on the outskirts of Sydney has been caused by several fires merging into one.

Bushfires are common in Australia but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fuelled by global warming.





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