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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426 Comments
  • hey2468
    hey2468Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 7:39 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!!!🙂
    • gachagirl1234
      gachagirl1234Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 4:57 pm
      You can make it maybe Ican help by making something for the injured animals and send them to my friend #staystrong
      • gachagirl1234
        gachagirl1234Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 4:53 pm
        Those poor animals. They dying because of fire and know smack they got coronavirus to deal they suffer to much 🐨 and it's an animals fault they have to deal with all of this 🦇 yeah that's right we are looking at you
        • queen_strong
          queen_strongTuesday, May 19, 2020 at 10:02 am
          OH NO!!! ALL THOSE POOR ANIMALS!!😥😣
          • bsc
            bscSaturday, May 9, 2020 at 6:23 pm
            That's so sad...
            • animereina25
              animereina25Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 8:13 pm
              I feel REALLY bad for them. With COVID 19 and now this!? We need to help them!😨
              • willthebest
                willthebestMonday, May 18, 2020 at 11:52 am
                Not exactly because if you want to help them, you will risk your life from COVID-19 and wildfires.
                • animereina25
                  animereina25Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 6:15 pm
                  But still! I am worried about them 😟
                • cutefurrygamer
                  cutefurrygamerSaturday, May 16, 2020 at 7:01 am
                  YES! It's already bad enough with covid-19
                  • effie302
                    effie302Monday, May 18, 2020 at 7:03 am
                    YES I agree as well, not only are they stuck inside their homes probably without air-conditioning but there is also wild fire's spreading. If they are supposed to be in quarantine how are they supposed to get out and stay six feet apart if they aresurrounded by them?!
                  • galaxy_fox12
                    galaxy_fox12Saturday, May 9, 2020 at 6:55 pm
                    I agree
                  • cutefurrygamer
                    cutefurrygamerWednesday, May 6, 2020 at 6:43 am
                    #staystrong!!!
                    • cutefurrygamer
                      cutefurrygamerSaturday, May 16, 2020 at 7:02 am
                      🐘🐆🐒🐨 all of these animals are in danger of we don't help them!!!
                    • queen_josie
                      queen_josieWednesday, April 29, 2020 at 8:16 am
                      #StaystrongAustraliaxxxxxxxxxx
                      • queen_josie
                        queen_josieWednesday, April 29, 2020 at 8:12 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
                        • effie302
                          effie302Monday, May 18, 2020 at 7:06 am
                          problem is I have family that live IN Australia!!! :(
                          • animereina25
                            animereina25Monday, May 25, 2020 at 5:34 pm
                            On no! That seems scary I am praying! 🙏
                            • cutefurrygamer
                              cutefurrygamerThursday, May 21, 2020 at 6:17 pm
                              Tell them to say safe and everyone's praying for them and everyone else in Australia! 🔥🙏
                              • gachagirl1234
                                gachagirl1234Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 4:54 pm
                                Oh no I will pray for them🙏🙏🙏🙏
                            • cookielover1234
                              cookielover1234Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 6:12 pm
                              We all need to help the homeless the kangaroos and koalas #stay strong Australia