The California wildfires aren’t the only fires laying waste to forests this week. A massive wildfire in Lake Innes Nature Reserve in Australia has been devastating the local animal habitat, potentially killing hundreds of koalas. According to a Facebook post from the Koala Hospital Port Macquarie, “two-thirds of the current footprint of the fire is prime koala habitat (or was).” The area, which is reportedly a crucial breeding ground for koalas, remains threatened by the blaze, and more koalas may soon fall victim. So far, the hospital estimates that over 350 koalas have been killed.
“If the wind continues,” the hospital wrote, “it has the potential to be devastating for this important genetically diverse source population of koalas.”
As of Thursday morning local time, the fire had burned over 6,300 acres of bushland, with 65 separate grass fires burning across the state.
The blaze has already been described as a national tragedy by Cheyne Flanagan, the hospital’s clinical director. She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that after twenty years in the business, “I just feel like walking away, I really do, I’m not going to, but it’s just awful. That area houses the most significant population of koalas in this region.”
Experts at the Australian Koala Foundation believe that koalas are “functionally extinct,” with fewer than 80,000 left in Australia even before the blaze. The recent wildfire certainly doesn’t help the situation.
The Lake Innes Nature Reserve closed to the public on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, will remain closed until at least Sunday.