As the wildfires continue to rage in Australia, scientists estimate that half a billion animals have been killed by the catastrophic, continent-wide crisis. Tens of thousands of residents have been forces to flee their homes as bushfires wipe out entire species of plants and animals.
According to the University of Sydney, “480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September.” Home to a range of indigenous fauna, animals continue to suffer severe burns and dehydration as bushfires continue to spread through Victoria and the New South Wales South Coast.
“Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.” —Reuters
According to EcoWatch, Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”
Several people have been reported dead or unaccounted for as thousands of homes burn to the ground leaving numerous Australians homeless. The fires, which started in September, have burned more than 10 million acres of land, EcoWatch reported.
“It’s mayhem out there, it’s Armageddon,” Charles Livingstone, an evacuee, said to The Guardian Australia.
The New South Wales government declared a state of emergency, which took effect today, as the wildfires are predicted to intensify this weekend. The bushfires have formed a ring around the country with no end in sight.
“Climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said, reported by TIME.