As many as a billion animals may have been killed in Australia’s wildfires since September, a scientist said, doubling his earlier estimate as the unprecedented scale of the crisis in the world’s driest inhabited continent continued to emerge.
New figures released on Wednesday by the University of Sydney’s Chris Dickman indicate more than 800 million animals have been killed in the state of New South Wales alone, while one billion had died nationally. That includes mammals, birds and reptiles directly killed by the fires or indirectly through loss of habitat.
Courtesy of bloomberg.com
500 MILLION animals dead during past 4 months due to bush fires in Australia #BushFires #animals #australia
There are concerns that entire species of plants and animals may have been wiped out by bushfires following estimations that 480 million animals may die as a result of the crisis.
Ecologists from the University of Sydney estimate almost half a billion mammals, birds and reptiles may have been lost since September.
They also say the figure may increase following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the NSW South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.
The estimation includes animals killed in the fires, but also through loss of habitat.
According to a statement from Sydney University, the co-author of the report, Professor Chris Dickman, a professor in Terrestrial Ecology, based the calulations on a 2007 report for the the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) on the impacts of Land Clearing on Australia Wildlife in NSW.
The university indicated that although these were estimates and there was no way of counting the actual toll, the estimations were obtained from published studies of mammals in NSW and reports of similar habitats in other parts of Australia.
Fires have been raging across NSW and Victoria, with millions of hectares of national park already burnt.
Harrowing scenes of kangaroos fleeing walls of fire, charred bodies of koalas and cockatoos falling dead out of trees have horrified the world as it tries to take in the scale of the unfolding disaster.
Koalas have been among the hardest hit of Australia’s native animals because they are slow moving and only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree, which are filled with oil, making them highly flammable.
Courtesy of news.com.au
While the US is stricken by freezing cold, Australia is suffering a record heat with temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in some parts of the country and leaving thousands of animals dead.
A wave of stifling heat started began around Christmas and continues to move counterclockwise across Australia’s north and into the south. The latest scorcher comes on the heel of Australia’s hottest year on record.
High temperatures are now shifting into Western Australia, with large areas being “under extreme heatwave to severe heatwave.”
“Certainly looking at the forecast over the next week, it’s looking like that heat is going to continue,” Karly Braganza of the Bureau of Meteorology has told the AP.
Already in January, 10 heatwave conditions are expected to expand eastwards and reach parts of South Australia.
Since December 27, temperature records have been set at 34 locations across Australia, according to the Bureau.
With the absence of monsoon rains in Australia’s north last summer the entire continent endured its hottest year since records began in 1910, the Bureau of Meteorology said last week. The late arrival of the monsoon in northern Australia, which has a cooling effect, is contributing to the extreme heat, Braganza said, adding that global warming also has a role in this.
The soaring temperatures have caused death and illness for thousands of animals across the country.
Bats are said to be dropping from trees en masse and kangaroos are collapsing.
“It’s an enormous animal welfare concern,” Louise Saunders, president of the Queensland animal welfare group Bat Conservation and Rescue told AP.
At least 50,000 bats had been killed by the heat in the southeast part of Queensland.
“As they succumb, they just fall in heaps at the base of trees,” Saunders said. “You can have 250 or more — it’s like dripping chocolate — all dying at the base of trees.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed that about 100,000 bats recently died, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
A large number of dead parrots, kangaroos and emus have also been found due to the extended dry conditions caused by the heat wave.
‘Yep, we fried an egg on a shovel’
To demonstrate the extreme heat, pub owner Phil Turner from the Outback town of Maree, 700 kms (435 miles) north of Adelaide in South Australia, cooked an egg in a shovel.
“You hear stories of people frying an egg on a shovel, so we set up a shovel this morning out the front and sure enough we’ve got an egg there that’s slowly frying away,” he told ABC radio.
Faced with an oven-like heat, locals are desperate to find ways to cool themselves down. Some soak in a small wading pool for much of the day; others rely on two electric fans.
Soaring temperatures have had a devastating impact on cattle farmers in Queensland, which accounts for about 50 percent of the national herd. Australia is the world’s third largest beef exporter, with sales during the 2013/14 season projected to reach A$5.4 billion ($4.82 billion).
But as the heat forces farmers to send cattle to slaughter, the country’s cattle herd is predicted to fall to 25 million heads during the 2013/14 season, the lowest since the 2009/10 season, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences said.
Some farmers have said that if significant rains do not fall by autumn their operations will become worthless and they would have no option but to abandon their properties, the New Zealand Herald reported.
So far, the weather outlook is not good. It is expected that the overall record high of 50.7C (123.3F) for the country set in 1960 in the south might be broken in the next few days if current conditions continue.