The impact of Australia’s catastrophic bushfires on animal species from koalas to frogs is beginning to emerge, with new data revealing a terrible story.
The impact of Australia’s catastrophic bushfires on animal species from koalas to frogs is beginning to emerge, with new data revealing a terrible story.

272 species threatened: Shock fire toll on native animals

A report into the species most affected by bushfires around the country has been released - and the story isn't pretty.

Species with large populations in the fire zones now listed as threatened include 272 plants, 16 mammals, 14 frogs, nine birds, seven reptiles, four insects, four species of fish and one spider species.

The data is contained in a new report by the federal Department of the Environment and Energy.

Threatened species have been split into three categories:

- 31 are considered critically endangered, defined as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future;

- 110 endangered, defined as facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future;

- 186 labelled vulnerable, defined as facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.

Warrnambool Animal Shelter is caring for koalas injured in the bushfires. Krista Veal tends to a koala at the Purnim triage unit where the animals are delivered and prepared before heading to Warrnambool.
Warrnambool Animal Shelter is caring for koalas injured in the bushfires. Krista Veal tends to a koala at the Purnim triage unit where the animals are delivered and prepared before heading to Warrnambool.

 

 

A koala named Pete is treated for burns after bushfires in NSW. Picture: Getty
A koala named Pete is treated for burns after bushfires in NSW. Picture: Getty

Koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are now listed as vulnerable.

Notable species considered endangered in Victoria are the long-footed potoroo, the mountain pygmy-possum, the alpine she-oak skink and the southern brown bandicoot.

The swift parrot is considered critically endangered.

In NSW, the Georges snapping turtle, Bellinger River snapping turtle and Georges helmeted turtle are considered critically endangered.

Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box said data collected to date was the first step in understanding the full impact of the bushfires.

"Some species are more vulnerable to fire than others and some areas were more severely burnt than others, so further analysis will be needed before we can fully assess the impact of the fires on the ground," Dr Box said.

The bushfires have devastated millions of native animals. Picture: Getty
The bushfires have devastated millions of native animals. Picture: Getty

 

Vicky D the echidna is treated for burns at Healesville Sanctuary after the bushfires.
Vicky D the echidna is treated for burns at Healesville Sanctuary after the bushfires.

 

Once it's safe to enter fire-affected areas more accurate data can be collected on individual species, the Department says.

Dr Box added: "Already, we are seeing positive examples of threatened species having survived the fires.

"We know that the Wollemi pine occurs within the extent of the bushfires, but we have heard the wonderful news that firefighters and park managers were able to save these dinosaur trees."

The department's analysis compared fire maps from state fire agencies between August 1, 2019 and January 13, 2020.

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Dr Box said data collected would guide how the $50 million Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Package would be spent.

KEY POINTS

- more than 80 per cent of the known habitat of 49 listed threatened species was within the fire zones

- between 50-80 per cent of the known habitat of 65 listed threatened species was within fire zones

- 30-50 per cent of the known habitat of 77 listed threatened species was within fire zones

- 10-30 per centof the known habitat of 136 listed threatened species and 4 listed migratory species was within fire zones