Bushfires in New South Wales have raged over 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of land which included a breeding site for koala bears. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has estimated that hundreds of koalas have perished in the region due to the fire.
A genetically diverse population of koala bears died in the fire. Sue Ashton, the president of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, said the loss of a large number of koala bears is devastating for the nation. The fire on the breeding grounds have killed off breeding adults as well as small joeys.
Ashton spoke about the marsupial's natural tendencies which might have doomed them. When under threat, the animals seek shelter on treetops. As the fire spread out on the land, the koalas climbed onto the trees and curled into little balls waiting for the threat to pass. While other animals ran away from the fire, the koalas were sitting-ducks atop the trees which eventually caught fire. The koala's natural danger evading instincts doomed them to a horrible death on top of burning trees.
Around 150 volunteers have rallied to help Port Macquarie Koala Hospital rescue and treat the surviving bears. The hospital is trying to rescue all injured koala. The rescued animals will be rehabilitated and released back. The hospital volunteers and staff have also undertaken the grim operation of counting the koalas which have not made it out alive.
Fires have been raging in many parts of southern Australia as well as parts of Tasmania. While firefighting efforts have managed to bring bushfires in most areas under control, there are still some areas that are blazing. In New South Wales, 71 bushfires were reported on the morning of October 30.
It is not just the koala bears that have lost their homes. It is estimated that 30 human homes have been damaged in New South Wales by the bushfires. The Sun reports that two men have been hospitalised in critical condition.
The fire which decimated the koala breeding ground is suspected to have been started by a lightning strike. The dry bushland has been susceptible to bushfire after the record-breaking high temperatures this winter in Australia.