(TMU) — The beloved koala is feared to be on the brink of total annihilation as wildfires continue to grip Australia, laying waste to the marsupials’ natural habitat.
While experts initially feared that hundreds of koalas died in the devastating bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland over the last two months, Deborah Tabart—chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation—estimates that over 1,000 of the creatures have been killed in the deforestation and blazes.
Now more than ever, this has left koalas “functionally extinct” and thus unable to recover, she told Daily Mail Australia.
According to BBC, the term “functionally extinct” describes an animal population which has so few pairs that they are unlikely to produce a new generation. It also describes species who breed in such thinned-out amounts that they are especially susceptible to falling ill from disease.
Tabart explained that the death toll in the ongoing blaze has likely reached apocalyptic proportions in regard to the koala population. She said:
“If we combine all of the estimated deaths of koalas in the bushfires, there could be 1000 koalas that have been killed in the last two months.
We know there are 31 koalas that have been killed in Port Macquarie, but I think that is not a high enough number.”
The koala expert also noted that at least 350 koalas were likely killed in the bushfires near the coastal township of Port Macquarie.
We are getting lots of contact from people asking how the burnt koalas are progressing. This is Lake Innes Nature…
Similarly frightful fires have plagued koala habitats in places like Crows Nest and Lake Toowoomba, but a full account of dead koalas has yet to be taken into account.
Tabart fears the worst:
“We think there are 18,000 koalas in New South Wales alone, so the bushfires have had a massive impact on their population.”
And while some koalas may have survived, this doesn’t lessen the long-term risk the species faces. Tabart added:
“Because of deforestation and now the bushfires, there is so little habitat left and trees with eucalyptus take months to grow back.”
Climate change and arid conditions are also a threat to the koalas’ habitat, decreasing the likelihood of any recovery. The next quarter-century is not expected to entail much rain in the western regions of NSW.
This is L.I.N.R. Peter ( Lake Innes Nature Reserve) who has come from the Crestwood/Lake Innes fireground. He has burns…
Koalas remain an internationally-recognized symbol of Australia that was even featured as the mascot for last year’s Commonwealth Games.
However, Tabart has accused the government of failing to offer proper protections to the species, such as passing the Koala Protection act written in 2016. She explained:
“They are equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone wants to touch a koala, so you would think the government would want to do something to save them.
The plight of the Koala now falls on the Prime Minister’s shoulders.”
A trained koala detection dog, named Bear, is sniffing out charred bushland for injured animals that have been caught in Queensland and NSW bushfires. https://t.co/Ome4hpHUJp #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/MTG8eoppPS
— 7NEWS Wide Bay (@7NewsWideBay) November 19, 2019
Koala hospitals have been inundated with badly injured and burned koalas, drawing the support of volunteers across the country.
Koala Hospital Port Macquarie team leader Amanda Gordon told Newshub that koala bodies are simply not turning up, which means that the population was likely decimated. She said:
“We’ve got teams going out on the fire grounds still as we speak, looking for wildlife. We are not seeing a lot, which means they’ve been burnt.”
Gordon’s hospital has raised over $1 million to help the injured marsupials—far more than the initial fundraising goal of $25,000.
Their campaign hopes to install automatic drinking stations for koalas in the areas devastated by the fires.
Donations began pouring in after dramatic footage emerged of a woman running into a raging brushfire to save an injured koala named Ellenborough Lewis. Video showed the koala, badly burned with patches of fur missing, running near the fires before the woman, Toni Doherty, saved him by pouring bottles of water on him and wrapping him in a blanket.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.