Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Australia's Fires Harmed 3 Billion Animals, New Report Finds

Animals
A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia on Dec. 31 2019. Bruce Detorres / Flickr

Unprecedented bushfires that ravaged Australia in 2019 and 2020 killed or displaced almost 3 billion animals, according to an interim report released Tuesday.


Compiled by scientists from several Australian universities, the survey said the blazes impacted an estimated 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs.

The report, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), did not specify how many animals may have died. But the prospects for those that escaped the fires "were probably not great" because they lost food sources, native habitat and shelter from predators, report co-author Chris Dickman said.

The bushfires that swept across Australia between late 2019 and early 2020 scorched 115,000 square kilometers (44,000 square miles) of bush and forest, killing 30 people and destroying thousands of homes. It was one of the worst bushfire seasons on record.

Experts say prolonged drought and climate change will likely make such events longer lasting and more frequent.

'Shocking' Findings

A previous study released in January had estimated that around 1 billion animals perished in the hardest-hit states of Victoria and New South Wales in eastern Australia. But the survey published Tuesday was the first to assess fire zones across the entire country, lead scientist Lily van Eeden of the University of Sydney said.

The survey's results are preliminary, with a full report to be released next month, but scientists said the estimate of 3 billion animals affected was unlikely to change.

"The interim findings are shocking," WWF Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman said. "It's hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals."

"This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history," he added.

Arnulf Köhncke, species protection expert at WWF Germany, warned that horrific bushfires could become a common occurrence: "The record fires in Australia could become the new normal, just a taste of what's to come, if we don't manage to limit the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit)," he said.

Limiting temperature increases to 1.5 C above pre-industrial averages, as stipulated in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, is seen as crucial to preventing catastrophic global warming and worsening weather events.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An Edith's Checkerspot butterfly in Los Padres National Forest in Southern California. Patricia Marroquin / Moment / Getty Images

Butterflies across the U.S. West are disappearing, and now researchers say the climate crisis is largely to blame.

Read More Show Less
A wildfire burns in the Hollywood hills on July 19, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Wisdom is seen with her chick in Feb. 2021 at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Jon Brack / Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge / Flickr / CC 2.0

Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.

Read More Show Less
Wind turbines in Norway. piola66 / E+ / Getty Images

By Hui Hu

Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Jaffa Port in Israel. theDOCK innovated the Israeli maritime space and kickstarted a boom in new technologies. Pixabay

While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.

Read More Show Less