Australia wildfires: More than 100 species need ‘urgent help’ after habitats destroyed

Koalas, platypuses and pygmy-possums among high-priority list

Rescuers use cherry picker to reach koala in tree in fire-ravaged area in Australia

Australian officials have identified more than 100 species in need of urgent help after wildfires ravaged their habitats – with koalas, platypus and pygmy-possums among the list of high priority animals.

The catastrophic wildfires, which began in June 2019 and continue to burn across the country has seen more than 46,000,000 acres of land burnt – with research from the University of Sydney estimating more than 800 million animals have been killed in New South Wales alone.

Now the nation’s government has released a list of 113 animals in need of urgent help if their species are to survive.

The provisional list includes 13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, 5 invertebrates, 22 spiny crayfish and 17 freshwater fish species – with some at imminent risk of extinction.

In particular species like the Kangaroo Island Dunnart – a small mouse-like marsupial – Pugh’s Frog and the Blue Mountains Water Skink are all at risk of dying out due to the scale of the damage top their habitats as well as pre-existing threats.

Others, such as koalas and giant burrowing frogs, are less threatened but have been flagged as needing emergency intervention to ensure their recovery – while some like the platypus and the grey-headed flying fox have been placed on the list while more evidence of their risk level is gathered.

Meanwhile, a number of freshwater fish have been included on the list over fears ash and debris could wash into waterways if their regions experience heavy rainfall – likely resulting in a “large extinction event” according to the government report.

Officials have warned that a failure to act fast to protect Australia’s biodiversity in the aftermath of the fires could cause could have a knock-on effect on other spheres of the nation’s environment.

“The priority list includes animals that are not well known, like the Banksia brownii Plant Louse and the Golden-tipped Bat,” the report stated. “Some of these animals play important roles in our native ecosystems and their recovery from the fires is important to ecosystem function.”

The loss of hundreds of millions of animals in the country over the bushfire season comes amid broader concerns over the state of biodiversity on the planet – with studies warning the globe could currently be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event, the first to be caused by humanity’s interaction with the natural world.

In January the Australian government pledged to commit $50m AUD (£26m) to animal rescue and protection efforts – part of a $2bn bushfire recovery fund.

Of that $25m was earmarked for use on emergency intervention for identified at-risk species.

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