Can you be killed by a kaenguru
Escaped the fire - not yet saved
Burned carcasses, koalas with scorched fur: in Australia, countless animals die from bush fires. Even if they survive the fires, many remain in danger.
The devastating fires in Australia kill hundreds of millions of animals - even after the fires have long been extinguished. "It is a dangerous existence for the survivors in the months that follow," said ecologist Michael Clarke of La Trobe University in Bundoora, told Nature magazine. They would have to find shelter from rain or the scorching sun, there was a lack of food, and it would be harder for the animals to hide from predators such as feral cats and foxes in the wasteland after the fire.
Ecologist: At least a billion animals killed
So far, according to an estimate by Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, at least one billion mammals, reptiles and birds have died in the fires. There are also countless small creatures. Ecologist Michael Clark describes the scenery as follows:
It is deadly quiet when you walk into a forest after a fire.
Only scavengers such as strangler crows and ravens pecked at dead animals in such an area. It is a "gruesome experience" to be there.
There are hardly any alternatives for uninjured residents of such areas. "Even if an animal makes it to an unburned spot, the density of things trying to survive there will exceed the area's capacity," said Clarke. This would have been shown by observations during fires.
Many species of animals closer to extinction after fires
It will only be clear in a few years whether the fires have wiped out entire species, said Alex Greenwood from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. Many animal species in Australia can only be found there because of the isolated island location. According to Greenwood, species of snakes and insects are threatened by the fire.
The brush-tailed rock kangaroo and kangaroo island narrow-footed pouch mouse would also likely be brought closer to extinction, according to Clarke. The mouse lost almost all of its habitat due to the fire. Things also look bad for the brown-headed cockatoo. In addition, there is great concern about certain fish species that are sensitive to the mud and soot that is washed away with the rivers after forest fires.
The fires are also hard on the koalas, the approximately 50,000 animal population on Kangaroo Island has already been severely decimated. Animals that survive the fires will face a devastated ecosystem with no food afterward, Greenwood said. The decisive factor will be whether the animals have time to relax. "If such a catastrophe repeats itself, the animals hardly stand a chance."
It will be months before we know the full extent of the damage.
Michael Clarke, La Trobe University
Other species living in the treetops, which live in small, isolated populations and are only able to flee to a limited extent and look for unburned forest spots, are also at risk, Clarke said. "It will be months before we know the full extent of the damage." With the help of satellite images, it will be possible to find out where refugee animals could have been housed - there, survivors could then be searched for. It is currently too early for that: there are still huge fires on the way and more could arise.
Another concern, according to Clarke, is the fate of migratory bird species that travel between Tasmania, Victoria and southern Queensland. They stopped along the east coast - in areas that are now affected by numerous fires. "It will be years before these locations again have enough food to rest on for migratory birds."
Fires are becoming more frequent and more violent
It is difficult to estimate how long it will take nature in total to recover, said Clarke. It may take longer than with previous fires. "The regrowth of vegetation depends on precipitation, and that has become unpredictable."
30 years ago, climate researchers had warned of more forest fires in Australia due to global warming. "We're seeing three big changes," said Clarke: there are more fires, they are getting more violent, and the spatial extent of the conflagrations is increasing. "This triple blow diminishes the ability of the animal world to recover."
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