The burning bushfire in Australia may have killed more than half a billion animals.
An expert from the Australian biodiversity at the University of Sydney, Prof Chris Dickman n a statement said 480 million animals were directly killed as a result of the fires.
These numbers are based on a report he co-wrote in 2007 for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on the impact of land-clearing on Australian wildlife in New South Wales.
It estimated that there were an average of 17.5 mammals, 20.7 birds and 129.5 reptiles per hectare in the region. They’ve then multiplied that by the amount of land hit by the fires.
“We’ve estimated that in the three million hectares of New South Wales alone that were burned up until about 10 days ago probably as many as 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles would have been affected by the fires,” Prof Dickman said.
“Certainly, large animals, like kangaroos or emus – many birds, of course – will be able to move away from the fire as it approaches.”
“I guess it’s the less mobile species and the smaller ones that depend on the forest itself that are really in the firing line,” he added.
In a ray of hope he added that many of those may have survived the actual fire, but would die later because of lack of food or shelter. Birds lose their breeding trees and the fruits and invertebrates they feed on. Ground-dwelling mammals that do survive emerge to find an open landscape with nowhere to hide.
Initially, three million hectares were burning but now the fire spread in New South Wales and Victoria since then. Other experts say Prof Dickman’s numbers would only be the baseline and it’s likely that more animals were affected after coming in direct contact with fire.
Ecologists fear that the months of intense and unprecedented fires will almost certainly push several species to extinction. The raging fires have pushed back conservation efforts by decades.
The fumes from the fire would only increase the greenhouse gases enhancing the global warming.