Hundreds of koalas feared dead in Australian wildfires

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them

Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital President Sue Ashton said she hoped wildlife carers would be allowed to begin their search of the fire zone for survivors on Thursday. The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday in a forest in New South Wales state, 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Sydney, and has since burnt 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).

Two-thirds of that area was koala habitat, Ashton said.

“If we look at a 50% survival rate, that’s around about 350 koalas and that’s absolutely devastating,” Ashton said of the death toll.

“We’re hoping it’s not as bad as that, but because of the intensity of the fire and the way koalas behave during fire, we’re not holding out too much hope,” she added.

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

The koala colony was particularly heathy and genetically diverse, Ashton said. Koalas prefer coastal forests, which are being cleared for suburban expansion. Increasingly isolated koala colonies have become inbred and diseased.

ALSO READ: B.C. animal lover helps livestock flee wildfires

Australia’s wildfire season has made a particularly early and devastating start in the southern hemisphere spring due to above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall that has left much of the east coast in drought.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky Nimpkish ferry sailing

The ferry docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Heiltsuk Nation calls probe into arrest of Indigenous man at bank ‘woefully inadequate’

Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter had been at a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver on Dec. 20

Indigenous athletes invited to apply for Team BC

The Games will be the largest multi-sport event ever held in Halifax

WATCH: Powerlifting Competition returns to Williams Lake for the first time in decades

Nine competitors took part in the Cariboo Classic Amateur Powerlifting Competition

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sub-zero B.C. weather freezes clothing in just 45 minutes

A local photographer decided to have some fun with the frosty weather before its gone

Most Read