ANKARA (AA) - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Monday said more than 60,000 koalas were killed, injured or displaced by the last summer's bushfire crisis in Australia.
In a statement, the WWF said the impacts include death, injury, trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, loss of habitat, reduced food supply, increased predation risk, and conflict with other animals after fleeing to unburnt forest.
“Sixty thousand koalas impacted is a deeply disturbing number for a species already in trouble. That’s why WWF has just announced Koalas Forever – a bold vision to double the number of koalas in eastern Australia by 2050," said Dermot O’Gorman, the WWF-Australia CEO.
Koalas in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland were in rapid decline before the fires, he added.
The fires impacted over 41,000 koalas on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, more than 11,000 in Victoria, nearly 8,000 in NSW, and almost 900 in Queensland, according to the WWF report.
Earlier in July, the WWF published an interim version of the study which revealed that nearly 3 billion animals -- mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs -- were in the path of the devastating bushfires.
That overall estimate is unchanged in the final report, released Monday, titled “Impacts of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires on Australian animals,” the fund said in its statement.
About 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 181 million birds, and 51 million frogs were living in areas hit by the fires, according to the WWF.
“It’s estimated that 50 million native rats and mice; nearly 40 million possums and gliders; more than 36 million antechinuses, dunnarts, and other insectivorous marsupials; 5.5 million bettongs, bandicoots, quokkas, and potoroos; 5 million kangaroos and wallabies; 5 million bats; 1.1 million wombats; 114,000 echidnas; 61,000 koalas; 19,000 quolls and Tasmanian devils; and 5,000 dingoes were in the path of the flames,” the WWF also revealed in its report.
“Koalas Forever [campaign] includes a trial of seed dispersing drones to create koala corridors and the establishment of a fund to encourage landowners to create koala safe havens," O’Gorman said.
“Nearly three billion animals impacted is a number that’s off the charts and shows why a plan of this scale is needed," the CEO also noted, referring to the WWF’s Regenerate Australia plan -- the largest and most innovative wildlife and landscape regeneration program in Australia’s history.
“WWF is determined to help restore wildlife and habitats, rejuvenate communities impacted by the bushfires, boost sustainable agriculture and future-proof our country,” O’Gorman said.
Last month, the Australian government also announced an $18 million package to protect koalas around the country.
* Writing by Islamuddin Sajid