Number Of Animals Feared Dead In Australia’s Wildfires Soars To Over 1 Billion
Josephine Harvey / The Huffington Post
SYDNEY ― The number of wildlife estimated to have died in Australia’s wildfire catastrophe has skyrocketed to more than 1 billion.
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that his original estimate of 480 million animals was not only conservative, it was also exclusive to the state of New South Wales and excluded significant groups of wildlife for which they had no population data.
“The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone,” he said.
“If 800 million sounds a lot, it’s not all the animals in the firing line,” he added.
That figure excluded animals including bats, frogs and invertebrates. With these numbers included, Dickman said, it was “without any doubt at all” that the losses exceeded 1 billion. “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure,” he said.
An environmental scientist at the World Wildlife Fund Australia, Stuart Blanch, confirmed these estimates, reiterating that, given the expansion of the fires since the last calculations, 1 billion was a modest guess.
“It’s our climate impact and our obsession with coal that is helping wage war on our own country,” Blanch said.
Critically endangered species, including the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum, could be wiped out as fires ravage crucial habitat in Victoria’s Alpine National Park and New South Wales’s neighboring Kosciuszko National Park.
Threatened species, such as the glossy black cockatoo, spotted-tail quoll and long-footed potoroo (both small marsupials), are also facing real risks of extinction in large parts of their range.
Dickman said bats, which have enormous populations along Australia’s east coast and are critically dependent on forest habitat, undoubtedly also sustained enormous losses.
“The numbers would have to be huge. And they’re very susceptible to the fires,” he said.
Over the weekend, Australia Zoo’s Bindi Irwin shared sad news from the zoo’s wildlife hospital.
“In September, flying fox admissions to the hospital skyrocketed by over 750% due to drought conditions and lack of food,” she wrote. “Flying foxes are now being drastically affected by wildfires and we’re again seeing an influx of these beautiful animals from across the country.”
Koalas have lost more than 30% of their key habitat in New South Wales and may have lost a third of their population in that region, federal environment minister Sussan Ley told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last month. Dickman said it would be a “tough” recovery for the iconic Australian marsupial, dependent on the availability of their food ― eucalyptus tree leaves ― after the blazes sweep through.
The University of Sydney’s animal loss estimates also exclude livestock, which federal agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie expects will exceed 100,000 animals. Harrowing footage of thousands of dead animals beside roads has appeared on social media as the national Defence Force rushed to dig mass graves to avoid a health emergency.
A graphic compiled by agriculture market analysis company Mecardo found that 8.6 million head of sheep and 2.3 million cattle were in the areas of New South Wales and Victoria affected by bushfires.
It could take months before the exact number of livestock losses are known.
Officials will reportedly kill thousands of camels in the country’s northwest as they wreak havoc on communities with their water consumption during the drought and fire emergencies.
The fires across Australia have killed 25 people, destroyed or damaged more than 2,000 homes and burned nearly 31,000 square miles ― an area about the size of Austria.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday that the federal government would commit $2 billion over two years to a new national bushfire recovery agency, and more if needed.
Despite sustained criticism, the government has taken a firm stance on climate policy, with Morrison dismissing calls to curb the nation’s substantial coal industry and repeatedly pushing the party line: “We’re meeting and beating our targets.”
The bushfires alone are believed to have spewed as much as two-thirds of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Dickman said that the only remaining glimmer of hope amid this disaster was that the government may finally heed the advice of ecologists and environmental scientists, who he said had been frozen out of policymaking for over two decades.
“With any luck, now the government will actually come back and think, OK, we do need the science. We do need the modeling predictions. We do need really good, informed advice about what we should be doing.”
WWF Australia’s environmental scientists have outlined a three-part plan to address the crisis, Blanch told HuffPost.
“One, reduce the threat by ending logging or bulldozing of mature forests… Secondly, a 10 million hectare major reforestation agenda, and, thirdly, in the very short term, more support for wildlife carers and wildlife hospitals around the country.”
You can support organizations saving wildlife by donating to WWF Australia, NSW-based animal rescue group Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), Zoos Victoria’s bushfire emergency wildlife fund, Australia Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital, or Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
Humanity’s Footprint Is Squashing World’s Wildlife
New study assessed 20K terrestrial species finding that 85 percent are now exposed to intense human pressure
(January 13, 2020) — A new study says that the planet’s wildlife is increasingly under the boot of humanity.
Using the most comprehensive dataset on the “human footprint,” which maps the accumulated impact of human activities on the land’s surface, researchers from WCS, University of Queensland, and other groups found intense human pressures across the range of a staggering 20,529 terrestrial vertebrate species.
Of that figure, some 85 percent or 17,517 species have half their ranges exposed to intense human pressure, with 16 percent or 3,328 species entirely exposed.
The analysis found that threatened terrestrial vertebrates and species with small ranges are disproportionately exposed to intense human pressure. The analysis suggests that there are an additional 2,478 species considered ‘least concern’ that have considerable portions of their range overlapping with these pressures, which may indicate their risk of decline
The Human Footprint looks at the impact of human population (population density, dwelling density), human access (roads, rail), human land-uses (urban areas, agriculture, forestry, mining, large dams) and electrical power infrastructure (utility corridors). These human pressures are well known to drive the current species extinction crisis.
Though their findings are sobering, the authors say that the results have the potential to improve how species’ vulnerability is assessed with subsequent benefits for many other areas of conservation. For example, the data can aid current assessments of progress against the 2020 Aichi Targets — especially Target 12, which deals with preventing extinctions, and Target 5, which deals with preventing loss of natural habitats.
Said the paper’s lead author, Christopher O’Bryan of the University of Queensland: “Our work shows that a large proportion of terrestrial vertebrates have nowhere to hide from human pressures ranging from pastureland and agriculture all the way to extreme urban conglomerates.”
Said senior author James Watson of WCS and the University of Queensland: “Given the growing human influence on the planet, time and space are running out for biodiversity, and we need to prioritize actions against these intense human pressures. Using cumulative human pressure data, we can identify areas that are at higher risk and where conservation action is immediately needed to ensure wildlife has enough range to persist. “
Source: Materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society
Journal Reference: Christopher J. O’Bryan, James R. Allan, Matthew Holden, Christopher Sanderson, Oscar Venter, Moreno Di Marco, Eve McDonald-Madden, James E.M. Watson. Intense human pressure is widespread across terrestrial vertebrate ranges. Global Ecology and Conservation, 2020; 21: e00882 DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00882
ACTION ALERT: Donate to Save Australia
Avaaz.org — The World in Action
(January 14, 2020) — Hell on earth looks a lot like Australia right now. The fires are so big they are generating their own lightning — and they’ve killed more than a **BILLION** animals!
A billion! It’s a wildlife holocaust!! Thousands of koalas have been roasted alive in the trees, while rare flying foxes are falling dead from the sky. Even worse, this nightmare could be a glimpse of our whole planet’s future if we don’t urgently tackle the climate crisis that caused it.
ACTION: We need to fight Australia’s fires with burning, urgent action. If 40,000 of us chip in now, we can provide immediate on-the-ground support — funding the heroes who are rescuing injured koalas and kangaroos, while backing a long-term recovery plan to plant billions of new trees to help nature recover.
But alone it won’t be enough. Even as their country burns, Australia’s leaders are denying climate change and trying to derail global action to reduce carbon pollution. We can’t let them win. So we’ll also bring all of our movement’s campaigning magic to face down blockers in Australia and all over the world ahead of crucial global climate talks later this year.
This is urgent — give what you can to help beat back Australia’s biodiversity apocalypse and spark the climate revolution our planet needs!
Can you imagine how brave you must be to run into the flames to save terrified animals? Across Australia, heroic wildlife rescuers are working against the clock to save animals from this catastrophe — they deserve our support, and if enough of us chip in, we can give it.
But to really make their heroism count, we must spark change in Australia — and that means taking on the powerful climate deniers who have the government in their grip. Right now, they’re flooding Australia with fake news to play down the link to climate change, but as deadly fires blaze through homes, hospitals and schools, wrecking people’s lives, Australia’s leaders are under pressure like never before.
Avaaz is one of the few movements positioned to power recovery plans and wildlife rescue on the ground, while launching fearless people-powered campaigns and investigations all over the world to face down the climate d
So let’s not stand by and watch as wildlife burns — chip in now to power the global response to Australia’s climate catastrophe that the whole world needs.
This is personal for me. My brother lives in Australia, and I want my precocious, curious young nephews to grow up looking for koalas up in the treetops, and not just hearing about them in the history books. I hope they’ll be able to look out over the ocean, without choking on ash. And I’d love them to hear stories about a time when the world came together to defend their country’s splendid natural beauty — a moment that was both a global wakeup call and a tipping point toward building the healthier, more sustainable world we all want.
With hope, love and lots of grit.
• The world loves kangaroos and koalas. Now we are watching them die in droves (The Guardian)
• Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide (The New York Times)
• Something else is out of control in Australia: climate disaster denialism (The Guardian)
• ‘Starvation event’ shows wildlife may need human help to survive (The Age)
• How to help victims of Australia’s apocalyptic wildfires (CBS News)
Avaaz is a 55-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.