(TMU) — As Australia’s ongoing bushfire crisis continues to spread devastation across the island continent, wildlife experts and conservationists are warning of “catastrophic losses” including the elimination of entire species.
The news of entire species being lost comes after the fires burned a third of Kangaroo Island, an island off the country’s southern coast that is often seen as the Australian equivalent to the Galapagos Islands due to its rich biodiversity.
Small marsupials called dunnarts and glossy black cockatoos are among the creatures feared to have been entirely wiped out after the fires transformed much of the island into a “scorched wasteland.”
Ecologists are now rushing to rescue any surviving dunnarts from the devastated island “before they are completely gone,” the Independent reports.
Heidi Groffen, an ecologist and coordinator of the nonprofit Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, said that the tiny mouse-sized dunnarts are helpless because of their small size and inability to outrun the fast-moving blaze that laid waste to their habitat.
Only 300 dunnarts lived on the island, but she hopes that some were able to find refuge among rocky crevices and other small spaces.
As well as dunnarts also the primary population base of the tammar wallaby and the KI western grey kangaroo…and all the other amazing native mammals including koalas & possums.The entire west end of KI burnt. Birds like glossy black cockatoos, thick knees (stone curlews) too https://t.co/apEb7wJEbh
— Marilyn Renfree (@MarilynRenfree) January 5, 2020
“Even if there are survivors, there is no food for them now.
We’re hoping to bring some into captivity before they are completely gone.”
Fellow Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife ecologist Pat Hodgens explained:
“It’s early days, fires are still burning but we have lost a lot of critical refugia for endangered species which will affect long term viability of these species.
The Kangaroo Island dunnart is our main species of concern and it looks like its entire known [habitat] range has been fried. We are locating unburnt remnant patches of its habitat to see if we can locate it through camera trapping.”
Hodgens noted that now that the fires have subsided, their team would set about using camera traps to detect survivors, while drone mapping would also be used to detect pockets of surviving marsupials.
In addition to the dunnart, a rare flock of glossy black cockatoos is faced with an uncertain future after their habitat was reduced to ashes. While the cockatoos fared better than the dunnarts due to their ability to escape, they may starve to death after losing their source of food on the island.
Conservationists had dedicated 25 years to restoring the glossy black raven from 150, but all of their efforts have gone up in smoke in the span of a week.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of koalas are feared to have perished after the island burned during what the local mayor called a “most devastating, shattering day” for the island community. Experts say that half of the 50,000-strong local koala population have been eliminated—a tremendous loss especially because the local population of the marsupials is considered the only one free of chlamydia, making the island’s koala’s an “insurance population” for the entire species.
Sam Mitchell, who bought the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park seven years ago, told AFP:
“We are seeing kangaroos and koalas with their hands burned off—they stand no chance. It’s been quite emotional.
We will do whatever we can to rehabilitate the native wildlife but it’s going to take years to recover.”
Koalas that have suffered burns from the KI bushfire are being dropped off at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. This mum and Joey were picked up by a CFS crew this morning #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/sd9rYhdXeX
— Casey Treloar (@CaseyTreloar7) January 4, 2020
Ecologists fear that nearly half a billion million mammals, reptiles and birds are estimated to have been killed since the fires broke out in September, although the current death toll is impossible to calculate.
The massive loss of life is already tipping the balance for entire species of animals and plants on an island continent where 87 percent of wildlife is endemic to the country, meaning it can only be found on Australia.
Professor Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney told 7News that the main challenge will be to restore wildlife populations in the long-term. He said the challenge of rebuilding wildlife populations is a long-term one.
“In the longer term, the rebuilding of populations of many native species is going to be the issue.
A lot will have been undoubtedly very badly affected by these fires.”
As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists
The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.
However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.
While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.
The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.
The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes – but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.
“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.
To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.
However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.
These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.
The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.
Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever
Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.
Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.
In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.
At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.
“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.
Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.
‘Horrific’ Swarms of Spiders, Snakes Invade Australian Homes Amid Devastating Floods
In recent years, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) has faced everything from drought to brushfires, a pandemic, a recent all-consuming plague of mice and now, devastating floods and massive hordes of spiders.
In videos shared across social media, hundreds if not thousands of spiders can be seen scrambling through people’s homes and garages prior to an evacuation order being issued on early Saturday in expectation of the floods.
In one video posted to Facebook by Melanie Williams, the arachnids of all sizes can be seen scrambling about in search of shelter from the coming deluge.
“Check these spiders out, oh my god, oh my god! Look at them all,” Williams said in the video. “No! No! Oh my god.”
The Guardian reports that Kinchela resident Matt Lovenfosse was pulling up to his home on Monday morning when he witnessed what appeared to be a sea of “millions” of spiders climbing about to escape the floodwaters.
“So I went out to have a look and it was millions of spiders,” Lovenfosse said.
“It’s amazing. It’s crazy,” he continued. “The spiders all crawled up on to the house, on to fences and whatever they can get on to.”
The flooding has resulted in some 18,000 residents fleeing their homes since last week, with authorities warning that the cleanup could last until April.
The floods have also seen thousands of snakes and insects of every kind scrambling to flee from the floods, with some snakes even leaping into rescue boats to avoid being drowned.
“There were also skinks, ants, basically every insect, crickets – all just trying to get away from the flood waters,” vistor Shenae Varley told Guardian Australia.
It’s just the latest reminder that Australia isn’t just another country – it may be its own entirely different world.
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