JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Australian scientists fear “many billions” of animals and insects are dead because of the Australian brush fires, and the environment could suffer for years to come. The fires are still burning and have been for months.
Homes have been razed and entire towns wiped out. At least 18 million acres have been blackened, leaving nothing but ash on the land once covered with bushes, forests, national parks, and homes for unique wildlife.
The World Wildlife Fund in Australia released an estimate that a billion animals, including koalas, kangaroos and birds, have been killed by the fires. When estimates account for insects, frogs, and small animals, the number could be in the hundreds of billions, according to researchers at one Australian University.
Dan Maloney, current Deputy Director of Animal Care & Conservation at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, visited The Morning Show to offer context and perspective on the raging wildfires in Australia and their effect on the wildlife. Maloney was once the general curator of the Melbourne Australia Zoo. (Press play above to watch the full interview.)
“I was there in 2009 when the bush fires were raging through parts of Victoria and they wiped out towns and there was more human loss of life at that point,” Maloney said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to keep it low with the fires now, but it wasn’t as widespread. It was more regional and this one is really bad.”
The koalas and kangaroos are being killed directly by the fires, being incinerated by the flames or choking on smoke, and a third of their habitat has been destroyed by fire. Wombats have also been hit hard.
“There’s no real way of knowing how many creatures are being lost. But you have invertebrates and fish and amphibians and reptiles, but then you have all your iconic animals as well. The fact that we’ve got koalas who are screaming as the fires are coming up the trees. I mean it’s really, really awful,” Maloney said.
Maloney said the sad fact is we may not know the full extent of the damage to wildlife and the environment for many years to come.