A new report has shown that nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced during the devastating 2019-20 Australian bushfires. The findings meant it was one of “worst wildlife disasters in modern history.”
During the peak of the crisis in January, scientists had estimated that 1.25 billion animals had been killed in New South Wales and Victoria alone. But the new estimate takes in a larger area.
About 11.46 million hectares – an area comparable to the size of England – was scorched from last September to this February.
AT A GLANCE
- Almost 3 billion animals affected by the 2019-20 Australian bushfires
- Considered one of “worst wildlife disasters in modern history”
- WWF report compiled by scientists from 4 Australian universities
As reported by the BBC, the report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) revealed the bushfires affected mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs.
“The interim findings are shocking. It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals. This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
Scientists from the University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, Charles Stuart University, University of New South Wales, and Birdlife Australia contributed to the research.
“When you think about nearly three billion native animals being in the path of the fires, it is absolutely huge – it’s a difficult number to comprehend,” the BBC quoted Professor Chris Dickman, who oversaw the project by 10 scientists from Australian universities, as saying.
They could not yet state an exact death toll, but noted the chances of animals escaping the blazes and surviving were “probably not that great” due to a lack of food and shelter.
In February, the Australian government identified 113 animal species which needed “urgent help” after the bushfires. Almost all on the list had lost at least 30 per cent of their habitat in temperate forests and grasslands of Australia’s south and east.
The 2019-20 Australian bushfires, which swept across every state, also killed at least 33 people and destroyed over 5,900 homes.