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Kangaroo Island bushfires killed thousands of koalas, re-endangered glossy black-cockatoos

Ecologists are worried for the future of unique and endangered wildlife on Kangaroo Island where bushfires may have killed at least 50,000 koalas.

Fires in South Australia, have so far burned through 155,000 hectares, about one third of the entire area with blazes concentrated in the biodiversity-rich western areas.

Concerns are greatest for the unique and endangered mouse-like marsupial the Kangaroo Island dunnart, and the glossy black-cockatoo, which have both seen extensive areas of critical habitat burned.




The island’s population of endangered glossy black-cockatoos, a unique subspecies of the area. Intense conservation works rose their numbers from 150 in the 1990s to as high as 400 in recently. Scientists said that key feeding and breeding areas were lost, endangering the bird.

Dr Gabriel Crowley, of the Centre of Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland, has been working on the cockatoo project for 22 years.

She said there was hope at least one flock may have escaped the fires on to Dudley Peninsular in the north-east, but information was still coming in. Those birds may struggle to find food, she said.



The fires had come through at the start of the breeding season when some females would have been sitting on an egg and reluctant to fly away.

“They have few places to nest and have lost their food supply. Their survival will depend on an intensive recovery effort.

“I’m a bit desperate actually. It’s a very endearing species and each individual is different. Because there are so few, every bird lost is a tragedy. Every breeding female is so important.”

The fires on Kangaroo Island started with lightning strikes in the Flinders Chase national park. Two people have been killed in the fires on the 160km long island, and its farming and tourism industry will be hard hit.

South Australian Government has revealed more than 230 properties have been assessed, with 56 homes destroyed, major damage to 10 buildings, minor damage to 18 buildings and 236 outbuildings damaged.

The Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife organisation has eight sites on private land protecting several endangered species, including dunnarts, goannas, echidnas, bandicoots and the glossy black-cockatoos.

Cameras used for monitoring had melted.

Black-cockatoos

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