The bushfires in Australia have burned over 12 million acres of land, making these fires the largest in the world. Since they began in September, these fires have scorched more than five times the amount of land lost to fires in the Amazon this year.
Sadly, nearly a half-billion animals are expected to have perished in the wildfires, with many others facing grave circumstances as their habitat is being destroyed. Rescue crews have been working around the clock to help contain and extinguish the fires, and among those rescue workers is the surviving members of Steve Irwin’s family, who run the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.
Since the hospital has been in operation, they have helped treat over 90,000 animals, but they have been busier than ever since the fires began. Terri Irwin says that her family are familiar with treating a variety of possums, birds, koalas, kangaroos and other types of animals, but the level of patients has certainly been unprecedented in recent months.
Terri said that they have been treating animals for problems associated with smoke inhalation as well as burns.
She also explained how Koalas are especially at risk in this situation because their instincts tell them to climb up the trees if they are in danger, which leaves them with nowhere to go in the fires. Furthermore, the Eucalyptus trees that they often inhabit have so much oil that they ignite and actually explode in a fire.
“That means being able to treat and help koalas is few and far between because they’re basically incinerated,” Terri said.
On Sunday, Steve Irwin’s 16-year-old son Robert became very emotional while holding a koala during an interview.
"Being able to treat and help koalas is few and far between because they're basically incinerated"
Terri Irwin chats about the devastating impact of Australia's bushfires on our vulnerable koala population.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) January 5, 2020
“We’re just trying to do our best to help in any way we can, but it’s an absolutely horrific situation. We’re heartbroken,” he said.
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.
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.