Experts have estimated that the wildfires blazing through Australia have killed around 800 million animals just in the state of New South Wales alone. These numbers come from Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, who wrote, “If 800 million sounds a lot ― it’s not all the animals in the firing line,” in an article published Tuesday.
This could mean the end of several endangered species, including the 200 or so southern corroboree frog, the 3000 remaining mountain pygmy possum (a small marsupial that sort of looks like a mouse), and the 370 remaining members of the glossy black cockatoo species. All of these creatures were being carefully watched, butt eh fire has all but consumed their habitat.
Even spaces that were earmarked for conservation have suffered greatly from the devastation. Kangaroo Island, a hundred mile island off the coast that had been dedicated to conservation efforts and was home to both koalas and cockatoos, lost about a third of its surface to the fire. Even if any birds survived, they lost a lot of their breeding and feeding space.
“They have few places to nest and have lost their food supply. Their survival will depend on an intensive recovery effort,” Dr. Gabriel Crowley, a scientist who has worked on the cockatoo conversation project for two decades, told the Guardian.
The damage was so thorough that animals that weren't previously on the endangered species list could now be in jeopardy. The animals in Australia have suffered greatly due to the wildfires, which have been exacerbated due to the climate crisis. "Climate change is increasing bushfire risk in Australia by lengthening the fire season, decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature," according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The unprecedented fires, which have killed at least 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes, have been burning since September. Agriculture market analysis company Mecardo estimated there were 8.6 million sheep and 2.3 million cattle in the areas affected by fire.
The entire area in Australia that has been destroyed by the fire is roughly the same size as Switzerland. Rain gave a brief reprieve, but the damage is expected to get worse as the temperatures climb.