Australia has been engulfed by overwhelming natural forest fires. The fires are a threat to the wildlife, the flora, and the people of Australia. The current disaster has been assigned the “Catastrophic/Code Red” Fire Danger Rating, which has never been implemented previously, marking the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season as the most destructive in Australian history.
The residents of the multiple scorched communities across Australia have had to evacuate their homes. According to the BBC News, more than 15.6 million acres of land have been consumed and destroyed. This area is larger than Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island combined and is continuously growing with more than 135 fires currently active and the majority not contained. At least twenty-four people have been killed and over two thousand dwellings destroyed.
An important topic of discussion is the well-being of Australia’s wildlife. According to analysis done at the University of Sydney by Professor Chris Dickman, 480 million animals have perished and billions have been crucially affected since the bushfires started in September 2019. Much of Australia’s wildlife is endemic to its state—meaning it is unique and cannot be found elsewhere on the globe. An example would be koalas who have suffered drastically due to the bushfires. The Australian Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, has declared that more than a third of the koalas’ habitat and population has been destroyed. Over eight thousand koala bears have died, either by succumbing to smoke inhalation or perishing in a fire they cannot escape.
Heartbreaking pictures of koalas with singed fur, raw patches of burnt flesh, and blistered paws have flooded social media. There are horrifying pictures of animals who failed to escape the destruction of the flames and now, lie lifeless on the sides of the road. Fortunately, there have also been videos of cyclists and other travelers travelling to these animals’ previous habitats to provide these frail koalas with water, veterinary care, roadside assistance, and rescue.
The truth is that animals are not unprepared for natural disasters—they have been predisposed to them over the millennia. Many organisms in Australia have even adapted to thrive and reproduce following habitat destruction. However, human interaction with their environments have affected this ability to adapt. Through fragmentation of habitat and artificial introduction of invasive species, native species are struggling to recolonize. Climate change and the subsequent crisis, an issue that has overwhelmed us in its reality, has made natural disasters go from bad to worse with no hope of recovery.
Animal hospitals, zoos, rescue groups, local and international firefighters, and thousands of volunteers have come together to fight the fires and they are doing their best to care for injured animals and destroyed habitats. Ninety-five Canadian firefighters have answered Australia’s call for help and have travelled across the globe to help battle the wildfires. A new $1.4 billion bushfire recovery fund has also been created by the Australian government to help residents, businesses, and farmers recover from their devastating losses. International fundraisers have raised millions of dollars to support animal rehabilitation, habitat recovery, residence reclamation, and fire extinction.
As the sky is stained red in what resembles an apocalyptic scene, thousands of people evacuate their homes and millions of animals suffer. Habitats are destroyed and fires spread faster than they are contained. Life is so precious. Vulnerable animals such as koalas are defenseless, and we have the power to help them.
Whether it’s for the frail koalas, the kangaroos engulfed by flames, the other countless animals losing their habitats, or the families losing their homes, it is important to raise awareness about what is happening on the other side of the globe. We need to re-evaluate our impact on the environment, and most importantly, do something about it.
Monetary contributions can be made online to the following organizations dedicated to providing meals to evacuees and frontline responders or helping rescue and treat injured animals: Salvation Army Australia, Australian Red Cross, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and other animal rescue organizations such as WIRES and the WWF Australia.