According to ecologists from the University of Sydney, nearly a half-billion animals are estimated to have died in the bushfires that are sweeping through Australia. Experts have suggested that as many as 480 million animals have lost their lives in the fires in the past few months.
Federal environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC that crews will not be able to assess the full damage until the fires finally calm down. Ley said that up to 30 percent of the animals in the New South Wales region have lost their habitat, and with nowhere else to go, a vast majority of these animals have likely perished.
Even now, many more animals are still in danger, as over 100 fires are still ravaging the Australian continent. Environmental experts estimate that over five million hectares of land have been burned in the recent fires. The New South Wales region has been the worst hit, with four of the five million hectares of land being lost in NSW. The human death toll is at least 20, but there are still some people who have been missing in the chaos.
There are more dangers to the animals than just directly burning in the fires. There are numerous other potential hazards that are being caused by the fires, such as the loss of habitat, which is pushing animals out into dangerous situations where they are vulnerable to predators. In some cases, they are being pushed out into the human world, which can also be dangerous for wild animals. Smoke plumes and intense weather caused by the fires are also making trouble for the wildlife inhabitants of New South Wales.
Earlier this week, Antti Lipponen, a research scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Tweeted about a massive smoke plume that is larger than several countries.
— Antti Lipponen (@anttilip) January 2, 2020
Authorities in Australia have urged tens of thousands of people to evacuate from their homes and move to safer areas. The region of Victoria has declared a state of disaster in areas that are home to roughly 100,000 people. The fires have been burning since September, and in these few months, it is estimated that 1,300 homes were destroyed.
On Friday, the Australian navy evacuated around 1,000 tourists and residents who were trapped in the town of Mallacoota on the Victoria coast, according to the BBC.
The damage caused in these fires is actually many times greater than the highly publicized fires in the Amazon late in the summer of 2019. In fact, the Amazon is just one of many regions all over the earth that have been burning over the past year.
This is often a dry season, but some parts of the world have seen an unprecedented number of fires this year. Furthermore, because many fires are intentionally set to make room for agricultural businesses, fires are now appearing in parts of the world that do not typically experience such things, like the artic circle for example.
There are also large fires spread throughout Angola, Congo, Spain, Greece, Alaska, and Siberia.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, over 100 major fires have been reported in the Arctic Circle, which is a record number for the area.