Australia wildfires: Hundreds of koalas being treated as animals spotted ‘curled up and shut down’ across fire-ravaged region

Zoe Tidman
An injured Koala sits beside another dead koala on Kangaroo Island before being rescued on January 15, 2020: AFP/Getty

Hundreds of koalas are being treated in a fire-ravaged region in Australia, an animal charity said, warning they are finding an increasing number the animals “curled up and shut down”.

The Humane Society International (HSI), which has been rescuing animals affected during Australia’s worst wildfire season on record, said that they are now treating more than 200 koalas on Kangaroo Island.

There has been an increase in the number of “dehydrated” koala survivors taken in across Kangaroo Island over the past few days, HSI warned.

Kelly Donithan, the charity’s disaster response specialist, said this could be due to cooler weather, which has allowed koalas to move about in search of food and water sources, many of which have been obliterated.

“As the days go by, these animals are weakening more and more to a point where they require intervention because there’s virtually nothing left for them out here,” said Ms Donithan.

Blazes have destroyed vegetation and food sources on Kangaroo Island, an area famous for its natural wildlife, as well as leaving animals badly burnt. ​

An image of a koala stooping over a dead animal has been interpreted as it showing “grief”, although HSI said scores of exhausted koalas have been found in a similar stance.

Wendy Higgins, a HSI spokesperson, said: “It is not normal to see so many on the ground relatively limp and lifeless.”

Conservationists have warned of the devastating effect of Australia’s blazes on wildlife, with some warning entire species may have already gone extinct after blazes tore into their population and habitat.

Experts have estimated more than a billion animals have died since fires started in September. One animal charity worker recently said: “In some places you can’t walk 10 metres without coming across another carcass.”

Around 25,000 koalas on Kangaroo Island – half of the original population – are believed to have died as a result of the blazes, according to World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

As many as one third of Australia’s koalas may have been lost in total, the conversation group has said.

Thousands of homes have been torched and at least 29 people have died during the catastrophic wildfire season.

Australia has seen storms and heavy rain in recent days, which fire services had welcomed as they fought against blazes.

However, the extreme weather has brought its own set of problems. Parts of the country have experienced flash flooding, while a hail storm in Canberra on Monday damaged buildings, cut power to some suburbs, felled trees and injured two people, according to emergency services officials.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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