A billion animals will have died in Australia’s devastating bushfires and those who make it through the flames could die in the coming weeks, Sky News has been told.
As the blazes rage across the country, Stuart Blanch of WWF Australia said mammals, birds, reptiles, bats, frogs and insects are all victims – and those who survive the infernos may still be doomed.
“Animals that make it through the fires will continue to die in the next weeks and months because of dehydration, starvation, disease and being easier prey for feral cats and foxes,” he said.
“Nearly all of Australian wildlife is well-adapted to cope with normal bushfires – but this is not normal, this a climate emergency-driven bushfire catastrophe and a lot of our wildlife simply cannot get away from the fires – they’re too fast, they’re too big, they’re too hot.
“So even animals that are not being burnt to death are cooked because of extreme temperatures, or they get very confused and lost because of the smoke haze so our animals don’t stand a chance from these mass mega-fires that burn flames up to 200ft high.”
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales
He added: “We can keep exporting coal, or we can keep our wildlife – but we can’t do both… otherwise, with even the best-managed national parks, our forests will continue to burn.”
Thousands of firefighters are battling to contain the blazes and many continue to burn out of control, threatening to wipe out rural townships and causing almost incalculable damage to property and wildlife.
More from Australia Bushfires
Soaring temperatures and strong winds fanned fires in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia on Saturday, forcing thousands to flee and bringing flames to the suburban fringes of Sydney.
The number of people killed has risen in the past 24 hours, with the latest death being a 47-year-old man who died while trying to defend a friend’s home,
Image: This satellite image shows smoke from wildfires burning east of Obrost, Victoria
State police said he was found unconscious in a vehicle and could not be revived.
Earlier on Saturday, a father and son who were battling flames for two days died on a highway on Kangaroo Island, off South Australia state.
A total of 24 people have been killed and almost 2,000 homes destroyed as the bushfires have ravaged three Australian states.
On Sunday, a drop in temperature and rain showers has brought some hope of a respite from the flames.
Meanwhile, prime minister Scott Morrison told a news conference on Sunday: “It’s been another difficult night across Australia, in particular in New South Wales and Victoria and in South Australia, with the confirmation of another life lost.
Image: Celebrities and business leaders help to raise millions to fund firefighting operations
“While the weather conditions have improved, as you would have heard, as reported from New South Wales and Victoria, there are still many fires that are raging.
“And there is a very significant firefighting effort which is continuing.
“The better conditions today obviously will assist, but it is important to stress, as I’ve been advised, that the nature of those fires is still very strong.
“And it will take some time. And that will require a considerable amount of effort. And we absolutely understand that that is where the primary focus is, particularly of the fire commissioners as they are addressing that very urgent task.”
The deadly fires, which have been raging since September, have already burned about five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land and have killed an estimated 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals in New South Wales alone.
Actors, popstars and Britain’s royal family have stepped in to offer support for victims of the bushfires, helping to raise millions for firefighting services and wildlife shelters.
Nicole Kidman pledged a $500,000 (£381,000) donation on behalf of her family to New South Wales state Rural Fire Service, without specifying a currency.
:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
She posted on Instagram: “Our family’s support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia.”
Australian comedian Celeste Barber, who has family near the bushfire-hit town of Eden on the country’s south eastern coast, and popstars Pink and Iggy Azalea, who hails from a blaze-hit region north of Sydney, also pledged cash.
A GoFundMe page set up by Barber, who won fame for her parody photographs mimicking “real-life” re-enactments of high-end fashion shoots, has so far raised $20m (£15m) for the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Pop singer Pink pledged $500,000 (£381,000) while rapper Azalea helped raise $100,000 (£76,000) for a New South Wales wildlife shelter.
Other donations have been made by actor Russell Crowe and tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes.
Source : Sky News