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

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less

Trending

New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less