Three billion animals killed or displaced in Australian fires

Animals in Australia are the victims of one of the “worst wildlife disasters in modern history” as nearly three billion have been killed or displaced in the fires of the past year.

The blazes swept across every Australian state last summer, scorching bush and killing at least 33 people. Mammals, reptiles, birds,and frogs died in the flames or from loss of habitat.

At first, scientists estimated that 1.25 billion animals had been killed in New South Wales and Victoria alone. But the new estimate takes in a larger area. About 11.46 million hectares were scorched from September to February.

Prof Chris Dickman, who oversaw the project by 10 scientists from Australian universities said the numbers are staggering. “When you think about nearly three billion native animals being in the path of the fires, it is absolutely huge – it’s a difficult number to comprehend,” he said.

The numbers were based on population counts and estimates of animal density before the disaster.

However, the data has limitations and it means that some groups such as invertebrates, fish and turtles – were not included in the estimates.

Prof Dickman they could not yet state an exact death toll, but noted the chances of animals escaping the blazes and surviving were “probably not that great” due to a lack of food and shelter.