Australia's Devastating Bushfires Show No Signs Of Abating

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Fires across Australia as of January 6, 2020 (Credit NPR/Google Maps screenshot)

Though bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia during the summer, they have never been as devastating or as widespread as the ones currently burning across the country. Since September 2019, the blazes, fueled by dry foliage and strong winds, have scorched over 15.6 million acres (24,000 square miles) — an area larger than the state of West Virginia. Even worse, officials warn that Australia's wildfire season — which generally lasts through March — is nowhere near its end.

With over 130 active fires, 50 of which remain uncontrolled, New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state has been particularly hard hit. The blazes have destroyed over 1588 homes, damaged 653 more, and killed 19 people and almost 500 million animals, including a third of NSW's koala colony, or about 8,000 bears. Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham told the Australian parliament: “[Koalas] really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away [from the flames]." Rescue workers have also reported seeing kangaroos trying to escape the massive walls of fire and cockatoos falling dead from trees.

The Australian fires have burned through millions of acres since September 2019 (Credit Statista/CC-SA-20)

The fires have also severely impacted the wildlife on Kangaroo Island off the country's southern coast. Among the hardest hit are critically-endangered small marsupials called dunnarts, a species whose 300 remaining members are all believed to have perished, as have about half of the island's 50,000 koala bears.

"The fires have also been devastating for Australia’s wildlife and wild places, as vital areas of bush, forests, and parks have been scorched and many millions of animals killed or injured," Dr. Stuart Blanch, senior manager of land clearing and restoration with World Wildlife Fund-Australia, told ABC News. "Until the fires subside, the full extent of damage will remain unknown."

The fires may have eliminated all of the critically-endangered dunnarts (Credit: theconversation.com)

Experts estimate that the bushfires have released 350 million tons of carbon dioxide, or about two-thirds of the nations' annual emissions, in just the past three months. Dr. Pep Canadell, a senior research scientist for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, believes that due to the slow regrowth rates in Australian forests between bushfires, it could take 100 years for the carbon to be absorbed.

"We used to see hundreds of thousands of hectares burned in bushfires, but now we are seeing millions on fire," he said. "It is drying in south-east Australia, that prompts the question if these trees will be able to bring all that carbon back [into regrowth]. We may need more than 100 years to get back to where we were after those mature forests with beautiful tall gum trees have burned."

Bear, a cattle dog crossbreed, has been helping rescuers seek out injured koala bears since November 2019 (Credit: YouTube screen capture)

Australia's plight has not gone unnoticed. Since November 2019, firefighters from New Zealand, the USA, and Canada have been working tirelessly alongside their Australian counterparts to help curtail the fires' spread. People across the world, including celebrities like Australian actors Nicole Kidman and Chris Hemsworth, are donating large sums of money to help the recovery efforts. At the request of the Animal Rescue Craft Guild, hundreds of volunteers from the US, the UK, Hong Kong, France, and Germany are busy knitting bat wraps, joey pouches, birds nests, possum boxes, koala mittens, and other items for animals injured and rendered homeless by the blazes.

Humans are not the only ones pitching in. Bear, a cattle dog crossbreed trained to detect live koalas through the scent of their fur, has been scouting fire-ravaged areas for the past three months in search of the marsupials. Though the animals can survive for weeks after a fire, they often lay camouflaged high in the treetops, making it difficult for humans to detect them.

#StaystrongAustralia!

Resources: www.ifaw.org, NPR.org, independent.co.uk, CNN.com

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434 Comments
  • miss_amelia
    miss_ameliaSunday, August 2, 2020 at 3:32 pm
    That's really horrible! I hope all the animals survive, not pointing out any that should die, I hope everyone and their homes are okay! I will pray for them that they're ok
    • nautilus
      nautilusMonday, July 6, 2020 at 3:31 pm
      this is the most read article of the year
      • the_wolf
        the_wolfFriday, July 3, 2020 at 6:32 am
        No not the cats and WOLVES
        • gamer_555
          gamer_555Saturday, June 27, 2020 at 11:08 am
          #savetheinnocentanimals
          • iamgood
            iamgoodTuesday, June 23, 2020 at 7:30 pm
            Save the koalas!
            • animereina2020
              animereina2020Saturday, June 13, 2020 at 6:38 pm
              So much has happened this year! First, this has happened with the wild fires that keep on spreading in Austrailia🔥. Next is George Floyd and all of these riots and unpeaceful protests. And now COVID 19 has changed our lives! I thought that 2020 was going to be one great year, but it ended up being one big mess! We need to clean this mess up and start all over! We also need to unplug 2020 and plug it back again! (@Tree11 has said this one before) Like to you agree. 👍
              • animereina2020
                animereina2020Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 8:25 am
                So much has happened this year! First COVID 19, the wild fires in Australia, Kobe Bryant and his daughter dying, George Floyd and these unhealthy protests, and many more. It has become a very bad year...
                • galaxyninja
                  galaxyninjaWednesday, July 1, 2020 at 1:31 pm
                  yeah i say instead of 2021 being called 2021 it should be called 2020 #2 to give us a better 2020
                  • nautilus
                    nautilusMonday, July 6, 2020 at 3:32 pm
                    we cant let 2020 prevail, that would be saying that 2021. 😉
                • l78
                  l78Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 5:49 am
                  No! The poor innocent animals!!!!!! Survive please!😭
                  • aaron4
                    aaron4Monday, June 8, 2020 at 11:26 am
                    I feel sorry for all the australians because if they try and get out of their country they will be stopped because of COVID-19 and if they stay in their country they will die follow me if you feel the same as me
                    • aaron4
                      aaron4Monday, June 8, 2020 at 11:24 am
                      I wish that I could go to Australia to help save the animals!!!😢😢 But Covid-19 HAS to come in and ruin EVERYTHING!!!😡😡😡#StaySafe, StayHome!!!🙂 if u agree give me a like or follow me and i will follow u back
                      • annsbanans
                        annsbanansThursday, June 4, 2020 at 4:35 am
                        Stay strong Australia we are praying for you and all of the other citizens and the animals 🙏🙏
                        • aaron4
                          aaron4Monday, June 8, 2020 at 11:25 am
                          yep