A Staggering 1 Billion Animals Are Now Estimated Dead In Australia’s Fires
With the spread of fires through Australia, at least 24 people were killed in the disaster that shocked the world. In addition to casualties, more than 15.6 million acres torched and over 1,400 homes destroyed. It could be estimated that billion animals killed based on one biodiversity expert’s count.
There is no doubt that the most stunning one is the last number which has begun to make the rounds on social media. You may have two questions in mind: How are so many animals dying? And how do we know the number of animals killed?
Exacerbated by climate change, the bushfires have swept through vast swathes of Australia since September and affected a mix of rural and suburban areas which are bigger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
Flames are the direct killer of many wild animals and some farm animals. The evidence filled with our own eyes: Distressing images of burned kangaroos and koalas, and videos of dead animals on the sides of the roads, have circulated online over the past week.
The destruction of their natural environment which they rely on for food and shelter made other animals have not been burned alive but have faced death.
In the beginning, an estimate from Chris Dickman who is a biodiversity expert at the University of Sydney shows the number of animals killed was put at 480 million last week. How he arrived at the number was explained in A statement from that institution.
A female koala called Anwen survives from burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia, on November 29, 2019.
In 2007, Dickman published a report as a co-author for the WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund) on how land-clearing has impact on Australian wildlife in the state of New South Wales (NSW). In order to estimate the impact, he and the other authors first mined previously published studies for estimates of mammal population density in NSW. Then they multiplied the density estimates by the areas of vegetation approved to be cleared.
Dickman was able to calculate that approximately 480 million animals had been killed since the bushfires in NSW started in September by using this simple formula.
Some experts pointed out that estimate was too high. Unfortunately, we have three reasons to believe the number of loss of animal life is even beyond the estimate — more like 1 billion.
First, the 480 million number just applied to NSW, however, the bushfires have spread to the state of Victoria. Second, the number included mammals, birds, and reptiles, but did not take insects, bats, or frogs into account. Third, according to the statement, the 2007 report “deliberately employed highly conservative estimates in making their calculations,” according to the statement.
It explained why Dickman now estimates that at least 1 billion of animals lost in the fires.
“The original figure ― the 480 million ― was from mammals, birds, and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now has not been updated. Given the extent of the fires now, it’s over 800 million in New South Wales alone,” he told the Huffington Post.
Dickman said there was no doubt that the number of animals lost tops 1 billion if we also include bats, frogs, and invertebrates (and we have good reason to think we should, given their environmental impact), “The figure ― over a billion ― would be very conservative.”
According to HuffPost, an environmental scientist at WWF Australia called Stuart Blanch also said the estimate was modest based on how far the fires have recently spread.
How the fires turned so fatal for animals
At this moment, you might have questions in your mind: Are animals not able to just escape from a raging fire? Isn’t it possible for birds to just fly away?
In many cases, particularly for birds, the answer is yes. “Certainly, large animals, like kangaroos or emus — many birds, of course — will be able to move away from the fire as it approaches,” Dickman told the BBC. But he added that “it’s the less mobile species and the smaller ones that depend on the forest itself that are really in the firing line.”
The answer is yes particularly for birds in many cases. Dickman told the BBC that large animals, like kangaroos or emus and many birds could escape from the fire when it approaches, however, he also said that “the less mobile species and the smaller ones rely on the forest itself that are really in the firing line.”
Koalas can be taken as a good example. According to what ecologists said, 8,000 of them are estimated to have died from the fires. The figure is nearly one-third of all koalas in NSW, which forms their main habitat.
Australia’s environment minister, Sussan Ley, explained that up to 30 percent of their habitat has been damaged, so up to 30 percent of the population in that region [was killed].
It is a serious tragedy that the bushfires caused current loss of Australian animal life by anyone’s count. In addition to the terrible human toll: two dozen people killed, and thousands more evacuated. In another month, fires are predicted to keep the raging situation.