More than a billion animals are feared dead in Australia’s bushfires

  • Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that more than 1 billion animals are now feared dead in Australia’s bushfires.
  • The fires are burning across five states in Australia, and have razed 9.9 million acres since September.
  • It was estimated last week that half a billion animals had died in the fires. Dickman said the estimation was conservative, and limited to the state of New South Wales.
  • Additionally, Dickman said researchers don’t have accurate population data for some animals, so it’s hard to know how many have died.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The number of animals feared dead in Australia’s devastating bushfires has soared from 500,000 to more than 1 billion.

Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that last week’s estimation that 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles were feared dead was a conservative estimation and exclusive to the state of New South Wales.

He said as of now, 800 million animals were feared in New South Wales alone. Dickman said researchers don’t have population data for multiple animals, including bats, frogs, and invertebrates, which makes it difficult to know how many have died.

Outside New South Wales, Dickman says, millions of others have likely died.

“Over a billion would be a very conservative figure,” he told HuffPost.

Hundreds of fires have razed more than 9.9 million acres across five states in Australia since September. At least 20 people have died.

An environmental scientist at the World Wildlife Fund Australia, Stuart Blanch, told HuffPost that the fires could wipe out some endangered species, including the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum.

Cattle stand in a field under a red sky caused by bushfires in Greendale on the outskirts of Bega, in Australia's New South Wales state on January 5, 2020.

caption
Cattle stand in a field under a red sky caused by bushfires in Greendale on the outskirts of Bega, in Australia’s New South Wales state on January 5, 2020.
source
SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Tracy Burgess, a volunteer at Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services, told Reuters that rescuers fear many animals aren’t escaping the fires.

“Our concern is that they don’t come into care because they’re not there anymore, basically,” she said.

A mountain pygmy possum, feared to have been wiped out by the bushfires.

caption
A mountain pygmy possum, feared to have been wiped out by the bushfires.
source
Photo by Rick Stevens/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham told parliament in December that koalas can’t move fast enough to escape the fires. Koalas also eat leaves from eucalyptus trees, which are highly flammable.

Tens of thousands of koalas are feared dead on Kangaroo Island alone.

Livestock, too, is being affected by the fires. Photos published by ABC show cows dead on the sides of roads and in the midst of bushfires.

Rescuers across the country have shared videos and photos of burned and dehydrated animals being cared for and fed by local residents.

The family of late wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin announced on Friday that the family’s animal hospital in Queensland had treated more than 90,000 animal patients.

The wildlife hospital’s patients includes possums, grey-headed flying foxes, and more.

The Australian government announced a $2 billion recovery fund on Monday that will help rebuild areas damaged by bushfires.