Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Fears Arise That Hundreds of Koalas Burned Alive in Australia Brushfire

Animals
A koala at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie on April 28, 2016. PETER PARKS / AFP / Getty Images

It is feared that an out-of-control brushfire has taken the life of more than 350 koalas in a koala habitat in Port Macquarie, a coastal town in New South Wales just over 200 miles north from Sydney, according to CNN.


The fire was triggered by a lightening strike on Monday and has raged all week. It has destroyed nearly 5,000 acres and the smoke from the fire has contributed to hazardous air quality in Sydney, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The intensity of the fire made it impossible for staff at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to enter the marsupial's protected habitat.

"I think this is just a national tragedy that we potentially have lost an enormous population of animals in the last 24 hours," said Cheyne Flanagan, a supervisor at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Sue Ashton, the koala hospital's president, predicted a massive lost for the local koalas.

"If we look at a 50 per cent survival rate, that's around about 350 koalas and that's absolutely devastating," she said, as The Independent reported. "We're hoping it's not as bad as that, but because of the intensity of the fire and the way koala's behave during fire, we're not holding out too much hope."

During a fire, koalas will often climb high into trees and curl into a little ball. It is a terrible strategy for survival since they will live only if the fire quickly moves on below them.

"So often the flames will just go over the top and singe the outside, but with really intense fires it can burn them alive," said Ashton, as the Guardian reported.

This fire has not moved on and it has already decimated a large part of the koalas home.

"So far over two thirds of the current footprint of the fire is prime koala habitat (or was)," said Koala Hospital Port Macquarie in a statement on Facebook. "Crunching the numbers based on koala survey work of the whole LGA (local government area) - it is looking like conservatively based on a 60% mortality that 350 plus koalas have died in the last three days in this fire."

While koalas are not listed as endangered, the marsupial's numbers have plummeted in recent years due to urbanization, habitat destruction, brushfires, road accidents and dog attacks, according to the Australian Koala Foundation, as CNN reported. There are as few as 43,000 koalas left in the wild.

The koala colony that is at the center of the Port Maquarie brushfire is notable for its health and genetic diversity. All too often in Australia, the coastal forests that koalas prefer are cleared for suburban expansion, which leads to isolated colonies that become inbred and diseased, as the AP reported.

"The beauty of this particular population is that it's so genetically diverse that it's of national significance," said Ashton, as the Guardian reported. "A lot of the koalas are being mixed and crossbred now ... so to lose a large part of that population is very devastating."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pie Ranch in San Mateo, California, is a highly diverse farm that has both organic and food justice certification. Katie Greaney

By Elizabeth Henderson

Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:

Read More Show Less
A woman walks to her train in Grand Central Terminal as New York City attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus through social distancing on March 27. John Lamparski / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
polaristest / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Spinach is a true nutritional powerhouse, as it's rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jeff Turrentine

From day to day, our public health infrastructure — the people and systems we've put in place to keep populations, as opposed to individuals, healthy — largely goes unnoticed. That's because when it's working well, its success takes the form of utter normalcy.

Read More Show Less