Thou­sands of koalas feared dead in Aus­tralia wild­fires

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Tristan Lavalette

PERTH, Aus­tralia — Thou­sands of koalas are feared to have died in a wild­fire-rav­aged area north of Syd­ney, fur­ther di­min­ish­ing Aus­tralia’s iconic mar­su­pial, while the fire dan­ger in­creased in the coun­try’s east on Satur­day as tem­per­a­tures soared.

The mid-north­ern coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas, but wild­fires have sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced their pop­u­la­tion in re­cent months. Koalas are na­tive to Aus­tralia and are one of the coun­try’s most beloved an­i­mals, but they’ve been un­der threat due to a loss of habi­tat.

“Up to 30% of their habi­tat has been de­stroyed,” Aus­tralia’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Sus­san Ley, told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. “We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper as­sess­ment can be made.”

Images shared of koalas drink­ing wa­ter af­ter be­ing res­cued from the wild­fires have gone vi­ral on so­cial me­dia in re­cent days. “I get mail from all around the world from peo­ple ab­so­lutely moved and amazed by our wildlife vol­un­teer re­sponse and also by the habits of th­ese cu­ri­ous crea­tures,” Ley said.

About 12.35 mil­lion acres of land have burned na­tion­wide dur­ing the wild­fire cri­sis, with nine peo­ple killed and more than 1,000 homes de­stroyed.

Fire dan­ger in New South Wales and the Aus­tralian

Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory was up­graded to “se­vere” Satur­day, as tem­per­a­tures rose over the re­gion. Syd­ney’s western sub­urbs reached 106 de­grees, while the in­ner city is ex­pected to hit 88 Sun­day be­fore ris­ing to 95 Tues­day.

Two wild­fires in New South Wales are at the “watch and act” level is­sued by fire ser­vices.

Can­berra, Aus­tralia’s cap­i­tal, peaked at 100 de­grees Satur­day, with op­pres­sive tem­per­a­tures fore­cast for the next seven days.

Mean­while, New South

Wales Emer­gency Ser­vices Min­is­ter David El­liott has gone on an over­seas fam­ily va­ca­tion in the wake of Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son’s much-crit­i­cized fam­ily trip to Hawaii.

Mor­ri­son, who apol­o­gized for go­ing away, even­tu­ally cut short his va­ca­tion and re­turned to Syd­ney last week­end.

El­liott said he will be briefed daily while over­seas. “If the bush­fire sit­u­a­tion should de­mand it, I will re­turn home with­out hes­i­ta­tion,” he said.

TARONGA ZOO

A res­cued koala is seen in its tem­po­rary shel­ter at the Taronga Zoo in Syd­ney.

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