More than 60,000 koalas among three billion animals were impacted during Australia's devastating 2019-20 'Black Summer' bushfires, a report released on Monday revealed.
The report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found nearly three billion native animals including, mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs, were in the path of the devastating flames, reports 9 News.
The report, 'Impacts of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires on Australian animals' found about 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 181 million birds, and 51 million frogs lived in the areas hit by the fires.
In total, more than 15,000 fires occurred across all states and resulted in a combined impact area of up to 19 million hectares.
Koalas, already under pressure from land clearing, drought and cars, were particularly hard hit by the blazes.
According to the report, the fires impacted over 41,000 koalas on South Australia's Kangaroo Island, more than 11,000 in Victoria, nearly 8000 in New South Wales, and nearly 900 in Queensland.
Death, injury, trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, loss of habitat, reduced food supply, increased predation risk, and conflict with other animals after fleeing to unburnt forest were just some of the threats faced by the native marsupials, it added.
Dermot O'Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia, said the fires were "one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history".
"Sixty-thousand koalas impacted is a deeply disturbing number for a species already in trouble," 9 News quoted O'Gorman as saying.
"WWF is determined to help restore wildlife and habitats, rejuvenate communities impacted by the bushfires, boost sustainable agriculture and future-proof our country."
Another report had suggested that koalas will face extinction in Australia's New South Wales (NSW) state before 2050 due to the continuous destruction of their habitat and frequent natural disasters occurring in the region.
According to ecologist Oisin Sweeney's research, some 15,000 to 20,000 koalas were in NSW which suffered devastating bushfires during the southern summer, while a report by the region's parliamentary committee said that the exact number of the species are difficult to establish.
According to the report, the bushfires killed at least 5,000 koalas and added that, "the ongoing destruction of koala habitat through the clearing of land for agriculture, development, mining and forestry has severely impacted most koala populations in the state over many decades". The years before these bushfires, the koalas in the region already were facing difficult situation due to periods of droughts and fragmentation of their habitats as a result of human development.
In addition to these difficulties, the koalas suffer from climate change, accidents while crossing roads, attacks by other wild and domestic animals along with chlamydia, a bacterial disease hat causes blindness, infertility and often death.
(With inputs from IANS)