From Queensland to New South Wales, Australia is currently going through a massive crisis of fires spreading on an unparalleled scale. Locals and people from around the world are now questioning why bushfires in Australia have been bad so far this year. Though bushfires are very common in the country every year, they seem to grow in intensity this year. Also, they tend to occur earlier than the bushfire season. Moreover, some of these fires have been rated as catastrophic.
The catastrophic rating for fires was first introduced in the country in the year 2009 after the disastrous Black Saturday fires that lead to the death of 173 people. Earlier than the expected bushfire season, however, officials extended the catastrophic ratings covering the Greater Hunter, Illawarra Shoalhaven, and Greater Sydney areas. The destruction has, unfortunately, affected the vulnerable population of the Australian koalas. Following the bushfires that took place in a significant koala habitat in New South Wales’ Port Macquarie area, about 350 koalas were feared to have died. The search and rescue teams that have been dispensed to look for surviving koalas in the area have only brought a minimum of 31 koalas. They were immediately brought into the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to get treatment for their dehydration and burns.
The hospital came up with a GoFundMe campaign that to this date has raised over $700,000. The money raised from this campaign will be used to set up automatic drinking stations for resolving dehydration in koalas that lived in scorched habitats. Also, the funds will be used to create a breeding area for koalas that have survived the disaster. They called this breeding area a Koala Ark.
For the past years, the koala population has already been threatened by inbreeding, widespread destruction of habitat, and chlamydia. Female koalas can only produce one offspring each year, and some may only do so once between two and three years. Also, car accidents and dog attacks have been shown to threaten their population. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, about 4,000 koalas are killed each year because of dog attacks and car accidents.
After the catastrophic fires, some volunteer groups like Koalas in Care took in koalas found to have suffered from dehydration and burns. Taking koalas in after such disasters is a horrifying process that involves cleaning their burns and treating them and patiently hoping and waiting for their little paws to recover.
Christeen and Paul McLeod are the couple who runs Koalas in Care in New South Wales. They have a koala hospital in their home where they treat the injured koalas by sedating them if possible before they clean their scorched fur. They then proceed to apply creams for their burns. So far this week, they have treated 24 koalas.
Koalas are, in particular, vulnerable to bushfires because it is their instinct to climb on top of trees going straight to the area with heat. If they do survive the fires, they have to come down and walk across the burnt ground. If these fires affect the primary habitat areas for koalas, you can expect a large number of injured koalas to come up and get help. And what you will see will be a cause of severe shock.