(TMU) — Three koalas who were rescued from Australia’s brutal bushfire crisis have been named in honor of the American firefighters who were tragically killed in an air tanker crash late last month.
The displaced and injured marsupials—who are now named Ian, Paul, and Rick—are currently residing at a temporary “5-star koala hotel” located on the campus of Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where they are recovering from the devastating wave of wildfires that laid waste to their habitat.
The three firefighters being commemorated are 44-year-old Captain Ian McBeth of Great Falls, Montana; first officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan, Jr., 43, of Navarre, Florida.
In a statement from the university, ANU researcher and koala nutrition expert Dr. Karen Ford said:
“We have 11 koalas at ANU that have come in from the various fire grounds in the region.
They just keep arriving. There is nowhere else that has the facilities to hold these animals or this many at the moment.”
Welcome to the "5-star koala hotel" – ANU is providing a safe-haven for displaced and injured koalas, with three individuals named after the American aerial firefighters tragically killed in the air-tanker crash in southeast NSW. @BiologyANU https://t.co/ACY2Cyusti pic.twitter.com/U2yhvkfGCO
— Science at ANU (@scienceANU) February 2, 2020
Ford, who is running the “hotel,” plans to keep the koalas in the temperature-controlled facilities for a few weeks in hopes to fully tend to their injuries before finally returning them to the wild.
“There are a couple with burn injuries and the rest have come from completely burnt habitat and they are quite skinny.
These injured animals have been very stressed. They have gone through a bushfire but they are doing well. They are eating well and have calmed down a lot.”
The three firefighters were all U.S. military veterans, and their C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker had been chartered by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. They had been on a mission dropping fire retardant to extinguish the still-raging wildfires before the crash occurred. Over 100 firefighters from the U.S. have been hard at work in Australia helping the country come to grips with the historic wave of bushfires.
Tens of thousands of koalas are assumed to have died in the bushfires, which have also claimed upwards of one billion animals, although a complete death toll remains impossible to calculate. The massive loss of life constitutes a major blow to biodiversity in a country where 87 percent of wildlife is endemic, meaning it can only be found on Australia.
Ford explained that anyone who comes across injured or distressed koalas should contact local wildlife agencies rather than taking matters into their own hands, even if they only intend to catch, feed, or provide water to the creatures.
“You need to know something about koalas to feed them, otherwise you can unintentionally starve them.
“Koalas also don’t drink a lot of water, and if a koala takes water they may be stressed. If you are not aware of their habits you might not even realize that you are not feeding them appropriately.”
The plight of koalas has been a subject of international concern since the fires grew to monstrous proportions beginning in September. The species breeds incredibly slowly, so rescuing just a single koala is crucial for their future.
“I am really pleased we can help these koalas otherwise I don’t know where they would have gone.”
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.