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Tens of Thousands of Koalas Feared Dead as Australia Fire Crisis Reaches Kangaroo Island

The number of koalas impacted by Australia’s fire crisis has been estimated at roughly 50,000.

Elias Marat

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Koalas Feared Dead Australia

(TMU) — Tens of thousands of koalas are feared dead after South Australia’s Kangaroo Island went up in flames in what a local mayor called the “most devastating, shattering day” for the island community.

The island is known as a haven for the species and the only refuge for koalas that is free of chlamydia—a sexually-transmitted epidemic that has devastated Australia’s koala population.

Australia’s Seven News reported Saturday that the koala population impacted by the recent uptick in fires has been estimated at roughly 50,000.

Department of Environment officials say that local management of the disaster remains crucial to ensure that the disease doesn’t affect the local population.

Bushfire recovery fighter Brenton Gear said:

“We’ve received reports that some koalas from Kangaroo Island have been taken to Adelaide by people who want to get help for them.

It’s understandable and heartening that people want to rescue these animals, but unfortunately it will mean that those koalas can’t be returned to the island because of the risk of contamination of the population there.”

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that has impacted wild koala populations at a 100-percent infection rate in some zones and is also widespread among humans. The infectious bacteria can cause infertility, death, and other diseases like blindness and bladder inflammation among the herbivorous marsupials.

Conservationists had largely seen the koala population of Koala Island as a last bastion for the species, capable of ensuring the survival of the threatened marsupials. In July, the University of Adelaide published a report quoting University of Adelaide School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Ph.D. candidate Jessica Fabijan, who said:

“The impact of Chlamydia on populations of koalas in Queensland and New South Wales is devastating, with high levels of severe disease and death, and common infertility.

This last large, isolated Chlamydia-free population holds significant importance as insurance for the future of the species. We may need our Kangaroo Island koalas to re-populate other declining populations.”

Since fires began to burn in the national park, the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park has taken a number of koalas into its care.

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Officials fear that the recent fires have left a number of koalas stranded and burnt, with an incalculable amount of koalas affected by the still-ongoing fires, which continue to burn amid an unprecedented national crisis.

While the animals of Kangaroo Island are isolated from the broader population of Australia and free of the disease, any introduction of chlamydia to the island could result in the further devastation of local koala populations.

The grim news comes after federal environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC radio last month that up to 8,000 koalas had been killed by the fires. The official noted that she’s been hard at work trying to establish corridors and plans to release hospitalized koalas. She added:

“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”

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Ecologists fear that nearly 500 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 threatens to forever tip 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.

Kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, potoroos, bandicoots, echidnas, possums, and other species all have populations that live in regions currently being devastated by the fires—and because the fires have extended to the wetlands, dry eucalyptus forests, and even rainforests, the animals have no place to find refuge.

While numerous scientists have sought to debunk earlier suggestions that koalas have been rendered “functionally extinct” as sensationalistic and exaggerated, the species is still faced with a grave threat by the unprecedented fires stoked by strong winds and a brutal heatwave.

Last month, ecologist Mark Graham of the Nature Conservation Council told a state parliamentary inquiry that koalas typically “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away” from the massive and fast-moving crown fires that spread across treetops. He added:

“The fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.

We’ve lost such a massive swathe of known koala habitat that I think we can say without any doubt there will be ongoing declines in koala populations from this point forward.”

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has become a rallying point for those concerned about Australia’s beloved koala population. Since the crisis broke out, a GoFundMe page for the hospital titled Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires has received over $2.15 million USD ($3.1 million AUD)—an all-time record in terms of funds raised for an Australian entity.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Animals

Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber

Elias Marat

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An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.

In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.

“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”

As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.

Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.

“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.

Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.

So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.

“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”

As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.

Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.

“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”

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Animals

Heat Wave Kills Over 1 BILLION Sea Creatures on Canada West Coast, Experts Say

Elias Marat

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Researchers in Canada are reporting that over 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died in last week’s record-shattering heat wave, showing how ecosystems not accustomed to such high temperatures are especially vulnerable to changing conditions.

The deadly “heat dome” that settled over British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest for five days is believed to have killed at least 500 people in Canada, and pushed temperatures to extreme temperatures of 104F (40C), sparking wildfires that are burning across the Canadian province.

Multiple experts are now saying that the heat wave also took a horrifying toll on marine life, leaving “postapocalyptic” scenes in its wake.

Marine biologist Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia knew, when he saw the harrowing weather forecasts, that when the tide dropped the sweltering conditions would absolutely fry the mussels, barnacles and sea stars that were exposed.

When the heatwave actually struck, he was devastated by the stench of decay and the vast death toll sustained by the local ecosystem.

“The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk on it,” he told The Guardian. “But there were so many empty mussel shells lying everywhere that you just couldn’t avoid stepping on dead animals while walking around.”

Mussels and barnacles can typical deal with harsh temperatures as high as 113F for a few hours – but any more than that is simply not survivable.

Harley told the New York Times that the loss of mussels likely reaches into the hundreds of millions.

However, when factoring in the death of other marine animals that once lived on the shore and resided on the mussel beds – such as hermit crabs and their crustacean relatives, worms, sea cucumbers and other creatures – the number could quite easily exceed one billion.

“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” Harley said.

Harley’s colleagues have also reported on dead sea anemones, rock fish and oysters in the region.

In neighboring Alberta, a massive number of fish also washed up on the shores, likely due to the heat wave.

Fortunately, mussels are able to regenerate over about two years. Starfish and clams, however, live for decades and reproduce much more slowly.

The domino effect of such a vast loss of marine life could be felt on other animals in the ecosystem such as sea ducks, a migratory bird that feeds on mussels in the winter before migrating to the Arctic.

The horrific loss shows that the pace of warming climate conditions is likely outstripping the ability of creatures simply to survive – a prospect that makes Harley feel saddened, but he is still trying to find hope.

“A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.”

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Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family

Elias Marat

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Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.

Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.

Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.

“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.

“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”

The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.

The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.

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