‘A national tragedy:’ Koalas are likely dying by the hundreds as Australian wildfires tear across their habitat
PORT MACQUARIE, Australia — The wildfires torching southern Australia have wiped out much of the koala population, stoking fears that the national icon is getting closer to extinction.
“In what is a national tragedy, the bushfires in and around Port Macquarie in November devastated a genetically diverse koala population,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said. “As many as 350 koalas have perished, with approximately 75% of the fireground footprint being prime koala habitat.”
The hospital established a GoFundMe account to help affected koalas recuperate.
The infernos have dealt a devastating blow to the koala population, which was already plummeting prior to the November wildfires.
There are only about 40,000 to 100,000 koalas remaining after “uncontrolled habitat destruction,” decimated the population, according to the Australia Zoo.
In addition to bushfires, habitat clearing, dog attacks, and road accidents, more than 2.5 million koalas have been killed to supply the fur trade in America and Europe, the zoo said.
Koalas are now considered endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
“We believe the wild population of koalas is critically threatened and in need of our protection,” the Australia Zoo said.
The human toll from the wildfires has also been immense.
Four people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.
In New South Wales, which is home to nearly eight million people, wildfires have already burned an area three times larger than during the entire fire season last year.
The infernos are fueled by soaring temperatures, fierce winds, and the worst drought in decades has fueled the wildfires. Even worse: Summer in Australia doesn’t even start until Dec. 1.