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Koalas, wallabies endangered by Australia bushfires ‘ecological disaster’

  • Published at 07:42 pm January 13th, 2020
AUSTRALIA-BUSHFIRES/
Wallabies eat hay left out for them by land holders near Cooma, Australia January 12, 2020 Reuters

Huge wildfires have razed more than 27.7 million acres, nearly half the area of the United Kingdom, destroying or severely damaging the habitats of several native animals

The Australian government committed $35 million to an emergency wildlife recovery program yesterday, calling the bushfires crisis engulfing the country "an ecological disaster" that threatens several species, including koalas and rock wallabies.

Huge wildfires have razed more than 27.7 million acres, nearly half the area of the United Kingdom, destroying or severely damaging the habitats of several native animals.

Some estimates suggest as many as a billion animals, including livestock and domestic pets, have either died in the blazes or are at risk in their aftermath due to a lack of food and shelter.

"This has been an ecological disaster, a disaster that is still unfolding," Treasurer Frydenberg told reporters yesterday as he visited the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where 45 koalas were being treated for burns.

"We know that our native flora and fauna have been very badly damaged."

Images of burned kangaroos, koalas and possums, along with footage of people risking their lives to save native animals have gone viral around the world. Knitters around the world have responded to a call to create thousands of protective pouches and blankets for injured wildlife.

The Australian division of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has advised the government of 13 animals whose habitats have been either destroyed or severely damaged. They include three critically endangered species: the southern corroboree frog, the regent honeyeater bird and the western ground parrot.

Other animals at risk include koala populations across the southeast, the Kangaroo Island dunnart, glossy black cockatoo, long-footed potoroo, western ground parrot, Blue Mountains water skink, eastern bristlebird and the brush-tailed rock wallaby.

In a mission dubbed Operation Rock Wallaby, national park staff used helicopters to air drop thousands of kilos of carrots and sweet potatoes to brush-tailed rock wallabies in remote areas of New South Wales state.

‘Megablaze’ brought under control

Exhausted firefighters yesterday said they had finally brought Australia's largest "megablaze" under control, as wet weather promised to deliver much-needed respite for countryside ravaged by bushfires.

New South Wales firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney's northwestern outskirts, which has been burning for almost three months.

Bushfire backlash 

The political impact of the bushfires is also coming into sharper relief.

A poll released yesterday showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval ratings have nosedived in the face of widespread anger over his handling of the deadly crisis.

The Newspoll survey showed 59% of Australian voters are dissatisfied with the conservative leader's performance overall, and only 37% were satisfied, an abrupt reversal since his shock election win last May.

Morrison has been criticized heavily for his response to the months-long crisis - which included going on holiday to Hawaii, making a series of gaffes and misleading statements about his government's actions, and forcing angry victims to shake his hand.

 

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