A study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has shown that almost 3 billion koalas, kangaroos, as well as other native Australian animals were either killed or displaced by bushfires that occurred in 2019 and 2020.
The WWF stated on Tuesday July 28 that 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs were all affected in some way or another by Australia’s worst bushfires in decades.
WWF-Australia Chief Executive Officer Dermot O’Gorman stated that these bushfires rank “as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history”.
The bushfires managed to destroy over 110,000 square kilometres across the Australian southeast, with this being equal to around half of the area of the United Kingdom.
The amount of animals affected managed to outweigh the expected number by the WWF, with the organisation estimating 1.25 billion animals being impacted whilst the fires were still blazing.
The WWF made use of several techniques in order to estimate the total animal populations, one of the techniques being data from over 100,000 surveys.
Lily Van Eeden, the project leader from the University of Sydney, said that the research was the first continent-wide analysis of the effect of bushfires on animals.
She stated that “Other nations can build upon this research to improve understanding of bushfire impacts everywhere”.
This total includes animals that have been displaced due to the habitats that have been destroyed, as well as those that were now suddenly facing a very low food supply and lack of shelter. Animals that were forced to move to already occupied habitats were also taken into account.
Chris Dickman, professor in ecology at the University of Sydney also claimed that “We don’t even know what we are losing”, as the destruction will also force several species to become extinct even before their existence is even recorded.
After several years of drought in regions of Australia, the country’s forests were left unusually dry, leading to one of the country’s worst-ever bushfire seasons, with fires blazing from June 2019 all the way to March 2020, which also led to 34 human deaths and almost 3,000 homes being destroyed.