The bushfires that have been raging in eastern Australia since early November have killed more than 2,000 koalas, a species classified as vulnerable, sources from the academic field told EFE Monday.
An undated handout image released on 11 June 2015 shows a newborn koala joey with mother Wanda at the Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia. (EPA-EFE HANDOUT/PAUL FAHY/TARONGA ZOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Australian ecologist Dailan Pugh, who was due to present a study on the situation of koalas before the state legislature of New South Wales, told EFE that the recent fires have claimed the lives of around 25 percent of the approximately 8,400 koalas in the region.
Pugh's data, calculated through the potential distribution of animals and the area affected by the fires, is double the estimation of other foundations for the protection of koalas, animals that also face threats from the country's ongoing drought, diseases and logging.
Pugh, who also heads the nonprofit North East Forest Alliance, estimated that 24 percent of the koala habitat was lost along the northern coast of NSW and recommended a moratorium on logging in the forests.
The ecologist explained that charred forests have lost their leaves and no longer provide shelter or food to the koalas, who have perished either directly from fires or indirectly afterwards from a lack of food.
The severity of wildfires fears the disappearance of koalas – whose population across the country is around 80,000 specimens, according to the Koala Australia Foundation – if such catastrophes continue and eucalyptus forests are not protected remaining on the north coast of NSW.
The severity of bushfires has led to fears about the koalas disappearing if such catastrophes continue and the remaining eucalyptus forests in the northern coast of NSW are not protected.
There are around 80,000 koalas in the Oceanic country, according to the non-profit Australian Koala Foundation.
In this regard, Green Party state legislator Cate Faehrmann released a statement stressing the importance of the hearing at the state legislature to try and save the koalas.
"Today’s hearing is timely and necessary. We will be hearing from some of Australia's leading experts on koalas, bushfire and climate change. We will also hear recommendations that must be urgently taken to ensure these fires don’t lead to the irreversible decline of koalas in NSW," said Faehrmann.
The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which is particularly sensitive to any change in the environment, spends about 20 hours a day dozing or resting, and uses the remaining hours to feed on leaves of several species of eucalyptus, a large part of which have been destroyed by the fires.
The marsupials were already threatened by urban development and chlamydia, a bacterial disease that causes blindness, infertility and often death.
The fires, which have killed six people and burned hundreds of homes and charred 13,000 square kilometers of land across the country since July 1, have been linked to the climate crisis, even though the government – a strong proponent of coal mining – has been trying to avoid the debate.