World: Australia’s fragile koala colonies are being ravaged by brush fires: ‘It’s a national tragedy’ - - PressFrom - US
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World Australia’s fragile koala colonies are being ravaged by brush fires: ‘It’s a national tragedy’

20:05  15 november  2019
20:05  15 november  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

'Uncharted territory' as bushfires rage across Australia's east

  'Uncharted territory' as bushfires rage across Australia's east Dozens of bushfires raged out of control across eastern Australia on Friday, blocking escape routes for residents and shuttering the main highway linking major cities on the country's Pacific coast. More than 90 blazes pockmarked the New South Wales countryside, 50 of them uncontained, tearing through tens of thousands of hectares. More than 90 blazes pockmarked the New South Wales countryside, 50 of them uncontained, tearing through tens of thousands of hectares.

The lucky ones escaped the inferno with singed ears and burned feet, clinging to rescuers who came to save the already imperiled koalas.

But hundreds others of already vulnerable koalas are feared dead in a historic bush fire that has torn through the eastern Australia coast. That fire has claimed the lives of at least four people.

More than 60 bushfires are raging the state of New South Wales in Australia

  More than 60 bushfires are raging the state of New South Wales in Australia Fire officials are warning of "catastrophic fire danger" as firefighters battle dozens of blazes raging across the Australian state of New South Wales. © Dan Peled/EPA/Shutterstock Mandatory Credit: Photo by DAN PELED/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10470920b) A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia, 10 November 2019. Three people have reportedly been killed, five are missing and 150 homes have been destroyed as more than 80 bushfires are burning uncontained around the state.

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Rescuers and volunteers wandering through charred eucalyptus trees in New South Wales for marsupial survivors have found bleak signs of devastation: koalas incinerated while seeking refuge, leaving ash where conservationists hoped to tally the dead.

“It’s a national tragedy,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital Clinical Director Cheyne Flanagan told ABC News Australia.

She estimated earlier this week that as many as 350 koalas had been killed and said that number could certainly rise as koalas dehydrate or starve to death. More than 2.5 million acres have already burned on the east coast, with more fires in the west.

Fire roared through serene Lake Innes Nature Reserve, where as many as 600 koalas lived in a colony and died in the trees while seeking shelter, News.com.au reported.

'Stay alert': millions of Australians brace for 'catastrophic' bushfires

  'Stay alert': millions of Australians brace for 'catastrophic' bushfires 'Stay alert': millions of Australians brace for 'catastrophic' bushfires

Social media has been awash with photos and videos of people stumbling upon burned and thirsty koalas placed in laundry baskets and munching on leaves indoors.

Koalas are already considered vulnerable to extinction by wildlife officials because of forest clearing and human expansion, and their numbers have dropped to fewer than 20,000 in their primary habitat in New South Wales, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which said they could be extinct by 2050.

But the fires have been so devastating that koalas could be reclassified them as endangered in the state, Flanagan said.

Australian fires burn through koala colonies, killing hundreds: 'It's a national tragedy'

  Australian fires burn through koala colonies, killing hundreds: 'It's a national tragedy' Bushfires raging in eastern Australia have killed at least four people and killed so many koalas they may land on the endangered species list. © SAEED KHAN, AFP via Getty Images A dehydrated and injured Koala receives treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie on November 2, 2019, after its rescue from a bushfire that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares. - Hundreds of koalas are feared to have burned to death in an out-of-control bushfire on Australia's east coast, wildlife authorities said Oct. 30.

Conservationists have raced to install water stations for surviving koalas stricken with dehydration. The stubborn animals typically rely on eucalyptus leaves for much of their water consumption, but the fires have destroyed swaths of their habitat and food source.

Koalas eat as much as two and a half pounds of leaves per day and even reject leaves that do not contain enough water, according to National Geographic.

Hotter and drier weather brought on by climate change — which has exacerbated the fires — have also ravaged eucalyptus, driving koalas to seek artificial water supplies in Gunnedah, the “koala capital of the world” in New South Wales west of Port Macquarie, the magazine said.

Conservationists have sounded the alarm over the fire’s impact on the sensitive species.

They typically breed once a year, Koala Conservation Australia President Sue Ashton told the television show “Today” — making each death a significant event.

“I don’t know how we are going to come back from this,” she said.

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Woman races into wildfire zone to save the life of a burned koala

  Woman races into wildfire zone to save the life of a burned koala Masses of koalas remain in danger as Australia's national bushfire emergency continues with no end in sight. The rapidly spreading fires have laid waste to the koalas' habitats and scorched massive amounts of land across the eastern portion of the country. Officials report that hundreds of the marsupials have died while the fires around the city of Port Macquarie in New South Wales have topped 2.5 million acres of burned land. Many koalas thatMasses of koalas remain in danger as Australia's national bushfire emergency continues with no end in sight.

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Microsoft News US is supporting Microsoft News Australia in its campaign to help respond to the devastating bushfires that are ravaging the country. Together we are raising fundsfor Australian Red Cross, St Vincent De Paul Society and The Salvation Army. These organizations are helping communities across the country. You can help by donating here . For the latest news on this disaster from MSN Australia, visit Bushfire emergency.


Koalas are not functionally extinct, but they need our help .
Reports abound Australia's bushfires have pushed the cuddly, grey marsupial to the brink but scientists have raised questions.The bushfires wreaked havoc across Australia, destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland. It's estimated up to 1,000 koalas may have died, including half the population living in Port Macquarie. A tragedy, for a species already struggling to survive against the effects of climate change , disease and deforestation.

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