Hundreds of koalas feared dead in Australian wildfires

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them

Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital President Sue Ashton said she hoped wildlife carers would be allowed to begin their search of the fire zone for survivors on Thursday. The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday in a forest in New South Wales state, 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Sydney, and has since burnt 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).

Two-thirds of that area was koala habitat, Ashton said.

“If we look at a 50% survival rate, that’s around about 350 koalas and that’s absolutely devastating,” Ashton said of the death toll.

“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,” she added.

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

The koala colony was particularly heathy and genetically diverse, Ashton said. Koalas prefer coastal forests, which are being cleared for suburban expansion. Increasingly isolated koala colonies have become inbred and diseased.

ALSO READ: B.C. animal lover helps livestock flee wildfires

Australia’s wildfire season has made a particularly early and devastating start in the southern hemisphere spring due to above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall that has left much of the east coast in drought.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Hope’s illicit drug death rate rivals Vancouver

Small Fraser Valley district listed among top five per capita in B.C.

No defence witnesses in trial of man charged in killing of Abbotsford student

‘Change of instructions’ results in defence closing case without calling evidence

Chilliwack condo sales up 153%

Year-over-year increase points to first-time homebuyers

SUV on fire on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Emergency crews on scene and blocking the right lane

Hope’s Senior Mustangs drop close consolation match up

Fatigue plays a role as girls fall to host team Agassiz

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

15-year-old charged following threat to South Surrey high school

Police announce pair of teens arrested for Nov. 14 incident at Elgin Park Secondary

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Injured eagle rescued in White Rock: ‘It was the size of a turkey!’

Bald eagle may have gotten into a fight over territory

Most Read