25 Humans, More Than One Billion Animals Dead in Australia Wildfires
Twenty-five people and more than one billion animals are dead in historic Australian wildfires that are now expected to burn for months.
Conditions improved over the weekend, but hot, windy weather is expected to return at the end of the week, NPR reported Monday.
"There is no room for complacency," New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told BBC News.
There were 130 fires burning in NSW alone as of 4 a.m. on Tuesday, and 69 were uncontained on Monday, according to NSW Rural Fire Service.
At 4am there are 130 fires still burning across NSW. Even with the current conditions, including rain in some loc… https://t.co/NuAEi44aXr— NSW RFS (@NSW RFS)1578330902.0
Most of the deaths — at least 19 — have taken place in NSW, according to NPR. The others occurred in Victoria and South Australia. Officials are concerned fires in NSW and Victoria could combine into a "mega blaze," according to BBC News.
Meanwhile, the toll on wildlife has been even more devastating than previously reported.
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney who estimated that nearly half a billion animals had perished in the flames, told HuffPost Tuesday that his estimate did not take all of Australia into account.
"The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It's over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone," Dickman explained. "If 800 million sounds a lot, it's not all the animals in the firing line."
800 million does not include bats, frogs and invertebrates. It also leaves out livestock.
"The number of cattle and sheep killed is still being tallied, but the losses are expected to be enormous," Jason Beaubien reported for NPR.
WARNING GRAPHIC. Sorry to share these images near Batlow, NSW. It’s completely heartbreaking. Worst thing I’ve seen… https://t.co/8YaCPiwRCS— ABCcameramatt (@ABCcameramatt)1578189022.0
There are also reports that officials will kill thousands of camels in northwestern Australia as they compete with humans for water while drought and fires persist, according to HuffPost.
"Over a billion would be a very conservative figure," Dickman told HuffPost of the total animal death toll from the fires so far.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supports coal use, has been criticized both for his immediate response to the fires and for his failure to act on the climate crisis that is making them worse.
Morrison has promised $1.4 billion for recovery over the next two years and said he would create an agency to help those who lost homes and businesses recover, BBC News reported.
The fires have damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 homes, according to HuffPost.
On Saturday, the government also deployed around 3,000 Army reservists and aircraft and naval ships to help with firefighting and evacuations. It was the largest military deployment in the country since World War II, The New York Times reported.
"The government has not taken this decision lightly," Defense Minister Linda Reynolds told The New York Times. "It is the first time that reserves have been called out in this way in living memory."
Among those rescued by the military were more than 1,000 residents and vacationers in Mallacoota, who were forced by fires to shelter on the beach last week.
The evacuees were taken by naval vessel to Hastings, near Melbourne. One of them, 23-year-old Corrin Mueller, stepped off the boat carrying a sign reading "inaction costs more" to protest the government's failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world.
"We're only here because nobody's acted quick enough," Mueller told The New York Times. "And there's so much more we can still do to stop more people having to go through this."
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.