Entire koala colonies are being ravaged by Australia’s devastating, ongoing bushfires.
The lucky ones escaped the inferno with singed ears and burned feet, clinging to rescuers who came to save the already imperiled koalas.
But hundreds of others of already vulnerable koalas are feared dead in a historic bush fire that has torn through the eastern Australia coast. That fire has claimed the lives of at least four people.
Rescuers and volunteers wandering through charred eucalyptus trees in New South Wales for marsupial survivors have found bleak signs of devastation: koalas incinerated while seeking refuge, leaving ash where conservationists hoped to tally the dead.
“It’s a national tragedy,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital Clinical Director Cheyne Flanagan told ABC News Australia.
She estimated earlier this week that as many as 350 koalas had been killed and said that number could certainly rise as koalas dehydrate or starve to death. More than 2.5 million acres have already burned on the east coast, with more fires in the west.
The fire roared through serene Lake Innes Nature Reserve, whereas many as 600 koalas lived in a colony and died in the trees while seeking shelter, News.com.au reported.
Social media has been awash with photos and videos of people stumbling upon burned and thirsty koalas placed in laundry baskets and munching on leaves indoors.
Koalas are already considered vulnerable to extinction by wildlife officials because of forest clearing and human expansion, and their numbers have dropped to fewer than 20,000 in their primary habitat in New South Wales, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which said they could be extinct by 2050.