The fire, which reportedly began after a lightning strick near Port Macquarie over the weekend, has since burnt down about 5,000 acres, including a significant koala breeding ground.
Conservationists believe that hundreds of koalas have died due to an out-of-control bushfire raging in northern New South Wales moved through Australia's eastern coast. The fire, which reportedly began after a lightning strick near Port Macquarie over the weekend, has since burnt down about 5,000 acres—including a significant koala breeding ground, reports The Guardian. About two-thirds of the area ravaged by the blaze is supposed to be a koala "hot spot" that breeds a high number of koalas according to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
Recent #bushfires in northern NSW have left communities devastated and a smoke haze throughout Sydney and other parts of the state.— Vinnies (@VinniesNSW) 31 October 2019
To support affected communities, donate through our northern NSW Vinnies Shops & over the phone on 13 18 12.https://t.co/hn1qoZ2Q5L
Currently, the affected area remains off-limits due to the intensity of the uncontrollable flames and rescuers hope to begin their search for any survivors on Thursday, i.e. if the area is safe to enter. Speaking about the mortifying death toll, President Sue Ashton of Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said, "If we look at a 50% survival rate, that's around about 350 koalas and that's absolutely devastating. 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."
There are just about 43,000 koalas left in Australia who live in the wild according to the Australian Koala Foundation. Unfortunately, their numbers continue to decline with no legislations protecting these creatures or their habitat in any part of the country. "The beauty of this particular population is that it’s so genetically diverse that it’s of national significance. A lot of the koalas are being mixed and crossbred now ... so to lose a large part of that population is very devastating," said Ashton. Although Koalas usually protect themselves from fires by climbing on top of tress and curling themselves into a ball, this time sadly, the flames are not contained and it could potentially wipe out entire colonies.
Hundreds of koalas feared dead as lightning sparks wildfire in Australia https://t.co/nku6GjlqnY— Sky News (@SkyNews) 30 October 2019
"What generally happens in a fire is the koala climbs right up to the top of the tree and curls into a little ball," revealed Ashton adding, "So often the flames will just go over the top and singe the outside, but with really intense fires it can burn them alive." Furthermore, she explained even if the koalas are able to avoid the fire, there's a chance they might burn their paws while climbing the smoldering hot trees, which in turn, would hinder them from climbing to the top properly. Although the hospital can only accommodate 40 koalas, they thankfully gathered 150 volunteers to help deal with the expected increased number of injured marsupials.
The NSW Government doesn't give a toss about koalas They have been bulldozing their habitat at an alarming rate despite the work of the WWF and will go down in history as the money grabbing grubs that they are. This fire coming on top of that is as described a 'national tragedy'— victoriamoore (@victori92735456) 30 October 2019
"In a disaster people just switch on and you do what you have to do," said Ashton. "No one can control nature, but there’s sadness because we care so much about the koalas." Despite being listed as "vulnerable" under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, marsupials continue to face a major threat against their survival due to the destruction of their habitat, diseases, and bushfires, according to the Australian Koala Foundation. Greg Allan, a spokesman for NSW Rural Fire Service explained how the north-easterly winds allowed the smoke to travel as far south as Wollongong and Nowra.
"It’s still an active fire and won’t be out for some time. The winds are pushing it down along the coast, which will keep happening as long as the fire is burning." On Tuesday the fire which has been burning for several days broke the containment lines. "Firefighters will be conducting backburning operations where local conditions allow today. You will see an increase in smoke and flames while these operations are carried out," said NSW RFS in a statement alerting Residents in Lake Cathie, Bonny Hills, Long Point, Herons Creek, Kew, Kendall, and Bobs Creek to be aware of the conditions.
Precious Koalas, I hope there are many more!— restinginangels (@restinginangels) 30 October 2019