Hundreds of koalas feared dead in Australian wildfires

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them

Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital President Sue Ashton said she hoped wildlife carers would be allowed to begin their search of the fire zone for survivors on Thursday. The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday in a forest in New South Wales state, 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Sydney, and has since burnt 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).

Two-thirds of that area was koala habitat, Ashton said.

“If we look at a 50% survival rate, that’s around about 350 koalas and that’s absolutely devastating,” Ashton said of the death toll.

“We’re hoping it’s not as bad as that, but because of the intensity of the fire and the way koalas behave during fire, we’re not holding out too much hope,” she added.

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

The koala colony was particularly heathy and genetically diverse, Ashton said. Koalas prefer coastal forests, which are being cleared for suburban expansion. Increasingly isolated koala colonies have become inbred and diseased.

ALSO READ: B.C. animal lover helps livestock flee wildfires

Australia’s wildfire season has made a particularly early and devastating start in the southern hemisphere spring due to above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall that has left much of the east coast in drought.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stettler County awaits Summer Village responses on possible amendment to Buffalo Lake development plan

Amendment could allow for more lots at the controversial Buffalo Lake RV Resort

Atom Stars play it even in home tournament

Bashaw doesn’t make the final after finishing at 2-2

Flush truck partnership updated

Agreement between Bashaw and two other municipalities renewed

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Two goals by Ben King pushes Rebels over Tri-city

7-5 game a high-scoring, runaway according to Rebels forward Chris Douglas

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

Alberta doctors getting ready for court fight against new pay, benefits deal

United Conservative government says Alberta doctors make more than physicians in other provinces

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

Most Read