It’s no secret that wildfires are destructive, but the sheer magnitude of their devastation can sometimes be difficult to comprehend unless thousands of human lives are lost. When it comes to the Australian bushfires, however, it’s pretty easy to understand just how serious these fires have become, when you consider that over one billion animal lives have been lost since the fires began. Eight hundred million are feared dead in New South Wales alone, with millions of others dead in other regions across the country. Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, said, “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure.”
Since September, hundreds of fires have destroyed over 9.9 million acres of land across five Australian states, and killed at least 20 people. Many animals are unable to escape the fires. Koalas, for example, can’t move fast enough to flee to safety, and livestock have also been severely affected.
Tracy Burgess, a volunteer at Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service, is worried about the unusually low number of animal patients coming into the facility for treatment. “We’re not getting that many animals coming into care,” she told Reuters, “So, our concern is that they don’t come into care because they’re not there anymore, basically.”
On Monday, the Australian government announced that $2 billion will be dedicated as a recovery fund to help rebuild areas damaged by the bushfires, but unfortunately, irreversible damage to the country’s animal population has already been done.