Stories of badly injured, traumatized and dehydrated, Australian wildlife have captured attention the world over. Weeks after news of the devastation broke, animal rescue teams continue to do what they can to save animals from record-breaking fires across the island continent.
Fueled by a warming planet, unprecedented summer heat and parched outback, there was an inferno of chaos and destruction, never before seen in the world. What is perhaps most disturbing, is that this tragic scenario was expected. Martine Maron is a Professor of Conservation Ecology and Environmental Management at the University of Queensland, she says the Australian government knew this tragedy was possible – for over a decade. “This was predicted in a government report in 2008, which directly stated there would be an increase in number of extreme fire weather days, and should be directly observable by 2020.”
The result has been catastrophic damage to the vast flora and fauna of the Australia wild. A billion animals, some that are not found anywhere else in the world, have been killed in the fires, pushing many to the brink of extinction. Says Maron, “That estimate is likely to be a conservative estimate, that number excludes all of the invertebrates, frogs, and fish. That’s the next group we are worried about.”
On this edition of The Big Blue Marble, we discover how devastating the ecological scars of this season’s fires will be and what the future might hold for one of the most biologically diverse nations on the planet.