This heartbreaking image shows a young koala drinking rainwater from the road after wildfires destroyed its habitat. The tiny marsupial is at risk of being killed as it is forced closer to urban areas during the worst fire season in history. He was found on the road between Moree and Croppa Creek, New South Wales, by a family who alerted the local wildlife warden after failing to find its mother. The word koala means ‘no water’ in several native Australian languages because of the simple fact they do not drink water. Instead, they get their moisture from eucalyptus trees, which have now been ravaged as fire has destroyed 40,000 square miles of land across the country. More than one billion wild animals are estimated to have died and 20 species pushed to the point of extinction, including the koala.
Rains have now started to fall in eastern parts of Australia (Picture: Pamela Schramm/Reuters)
The koala is risking its life by running to the road (Picture: Pamela Schramm/Reuters)
The WWF in Australia said: ’Sadly the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat means they’re forced on to open ground in search of another place to call home. ‘It’s during this time that they face being hit by cars, attacked by dogs, falling sick to diseases like chlamydia and exposed to prolonged stress.’ Around 100 fires still continue to burn across the country although there was some reprieve as the rains fell on the east coast. Where the flames have subsided, biologists are now looking for survivors of rare and endangered species to rebuild their populations. Before the fires, the Australian Koala Foundation said there were between 47,000 and 85,000 marsupials in the wild. The WWF said that in the last two decades their number had already reduced by a quarter and ‘at this rate, koala populations could be extinct as early as 2050.’
Koalas have seen their habitat almost destroyed in the bushfires, which began in September (Picture: Pamela Schramm/Reuters)
Adelaide wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk holds a koala he rescued at a burning forest near Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, Australia (Picture: AAP)Ecologist Matthew Crowther from the University of Sydney said: ‘We know there’s been a massive reduction of their overall habitat, and we’re not even at the end of fire season. ‘Koalas won’t go extinct in the next few years, but if their habitat is destroyed bit by bit, it could eventually be death by a thousand cuts. ‘We have to look at long-term trends – what will the temperatures and wildfires be like in the future?’ Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and severity of what scientists call ‘fire weather’ – periods with a high fire risk due to some combination of higher temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and strong winds. There are warnings that many of Australians could become ‘climate refugees’ as the earth’s temperature continues to rise. For now, the battle is on to save many species that are only found in Australia, such as kangaroos, koalas and wallabies.
A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma (Picture: AFP)
Humane Society International Crisis Response Specialist, Kelly Donithan (R) checks an injured Koala she just rescued on Kangaroo Island (Picture: AFP)
An injured Koala sits beside a dead koala on Kangaroo Island before being rescued (Picture: AFP)
Heavy rain and thunderstorms have offered some reprieve to firefighters in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. But it is a double-edged sword as there are warnings of landslides, water contamination and problems for rescuers driving deep into forests along muddy tracks. The torrents are already believed to be behind huge numbers of fish dying in rivers that have been poisoned by mud and other debris. The rain has completely missed Kangaroo Island, a large island off South Australia that is famed for its pristine wilderness. Fires have devastated the national park on the island, wiping out much of its koala population and threatening to completely eradicate bird and other endemic marsupial species.
Dead kangaroos lay on the ground of the nature reserve on Kangaroo Island (Picture: Getty)
Vets and volunteers treat koalas at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park (Picture: Reuters)
Animal remains are all that’s left in many parts of the country torched by bushfires (Picture: AAP)
Authorities have warned the crisis could worsen again with Australia only halfway through its summer. Average temperatures have already surpassed 40C and the country has been hit by drought for the past three years. Among those in peril are brush-tailed rock wallabies, which resemble miniature kangaroos with long, floppy tails. Before this fire season, scientists estimated there were as few as 15,000 left in the wild. Ecologist Guy Ballard is scouring Oxley Wild Rivers National Park for survivors, carrying water and sacks of sweet potatoes, carrots and food pellets. He called the situation ‘devastating’ and added: ‘You could smell dead animals in the rocks. ‘There are so few left that, with a species this rare, every individuals helps.’
Gliders are under threat in parts of Australia (Picture: Getty)
The brush-tailed rock-wallaby, (Petrogale penicillata), is under threat (Picture: Getty)
Many wildlife that are only in Australia are under threat (Picture: Getty)
The one billion figure has been derived from previously-published animal density numbers for different vegetation types and multiplied that by acreage burned. It came from scientists at the University of Sydney and does not include bats, amphibians, insects or other invertebrates. The wildlife toll includes tens of millions of possums and small marsupials known as gliders, which live in tree tops and can leap extraordinary distances by using a parachute-like membrane of skin between their ankles and wrists. Around a quarter of their habitat has been destroyed, with experts saying: ‘If we can’t protect them, they’re gone. ‘No-one else has them.’ The Australian government announced Monday that it was spending $50 million (£26.4 million) on emergency wildlife rescue efforts and habitat recovery. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his conservative government have come under fire for downplaying the role of man-made climate change in making the country vulnerable to fire and its continued support for the fossil fuel industry.
source : metro.co.uk