Exclusive: megafires ‘one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history’, say scientists
Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s devastating bushfire season of 2019 and 2020, according to scientists who have revealed for the first time the scale of the impact on the country’s native wildlife.
The Guardian has learned that an estimated 143 million mammals, 180 million birds, 51 million frogs and a staggering 2.5 billion reptiles were affected by the fires that burned across the continent. Not all the animals would have been killed by the flames or heat, but scientists say the prospects of survival for those that had withstood the initial impact was “probably not that great” due to the starvation, dehydration and predation by feral animals – mostly cats – that followed.
The wildfires that swept through many parts of Australia between July 2019 and February 2020 were of a scale and size that is difficult to imagine. By the end of February, they had burned through at least 32,000 square miles (85,000 sq km) of Australian forest, an area the size of Ireland.