Thousands of koalas burn to death as Australia fears native wildlife may never recover from bush fire disaster
At least 25,000 koalas are believed to have died in a horrific wildfire in South Australia that may have devastating consequences for the survival of the species. The fire on Kangaroo Island, which was considered a koala safe-haven because its population had escaped a devastating chlamydia epidemic, was described as “virtually unstoppable” on Saturday by firefighters. On Friday, koala rescuer Margaret Hearle told The Telegraph that another important koala population, nicknamed “the gene pool” because of its good health, had been “wiped out” in Crestwood, New South Wales. Footage filmed by an ABC cameraman in New South Wales on Sunday showed the charred corpses of hundreds of kangaroos and sheep lying by the roadside. “Sorry to share these images near Batlow, NSW. It’s completely heartbreaking. Worst thing I’ve seen. Story must be told,” he said on Twitter. A South Australia firefighter gives water to a dehydrated koala rescued from a wildfire in December Credit: OAKBANK BALHANNAH CFS Cooler temperatures and lighter winds brought some relief in New South Wales and Victoria on Sunday, but authorities warned and extremely hot and dry weather is expected to return within days and that fires will continue to burn for weeks. Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, defended his handling of the wildfire crisis on Sunday, saying “blame doesn't help anybody at this time and over-analysis of these things is not a productive exercise". Wildlife experts estimate that half a billion mammals, birds, and reptiles have been killed in the fires in recent weeks. There are fears endangered species in sanctuaries like Kangaroo Island, which was also home to 50,000 kangaroos before the fire, have been lost forever. Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park co-owner Sam Mitchell told local media the park was expecting to treat hundreds of starving and injured koalas in coming weeks, and is building extra enclosures in preparation. A NPWS firefighting Landcruiser lies burnt on Tallowa Dam Rd in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales Credit: Photo by Wolter Peeters/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images/ Fairfax Media About £10,600,000 worth of bluegum and pine trees on plantations were also lost. In New South Wales, temperatures are forecast to pass 40 degrees C again on Friday, and in Victoria three blazes remain at emergency level despite the cooler weather and subsiding winds. Four people remain missing in that state, and the air and sea evacuation from Mallacoota, a town that was cut off by the fires, is continuing. Early on Sunday Dave Harrison, 47, died of a heart attack in New South Wales while fighting to save a friend’s rural property in Batlow. Still from footage showing dead kangaroos and sheep after wildfires hit the Kangaroo Island, South Australia Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation His brother Peter said he “was just that sort of guy… He would help anyone at the drop of a hat - he would drive hours to help you”. “They had a plan to get out, but I just think he was overcome by the heat, the smoke, the exhaustion, running around putting out spot fires everywhere,” he told Nine News. Australia bushfires | Tell us your story At least 24 people have died during the fire crisis. It is believed at least another 60 homes were destroyed in New South Wales overnight and that estimate is expected to rise significantly as crews conduct further assessments. While it took weeks of pressure for the Federal Government to commit to an additional $11million (£5.8million) of funding for water bombers, Australian comedian Celeste Barber has raised $25million (£13.3million) in donations for the NSW Rural Fire Service from the public, including people from around the world, in just three days. American singer Pink and Australian actor Nicole Kidman pledged half a million dollars each to the cause.
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