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Australia fires impacted 3 BILLION animals in “one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history”

Nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, according to a new study.

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(TMU) – Scientists have revealed that nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced in Australia’s unprecedented wave of bushfires in 2019 and 2020, which experts have dubbed “one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history.”

While it still remains difficult to gauge the true extent to which wildlife in the country has been devastated, the new report titled “Australia’s 2019-2020 Bushfires: The Wildlife Toll,” suggests that the fires led to almost triple the losses estimated in January, when experts said that a billion animals were killed in the blazes.

According to the report based on research from several universities and commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), some 143 million mammals, 180 million birds, 51 million frogs, and a staggering 2.46 billion reptiles were impacted by the crisis.

While not all of the creatures were killed by flames or heat, scientists say that their ability to survive in the aftermath of the catastrophe is “probably not that great” due to the dehydration, starvation, and predation of feral animals such as cats that followed.

Conservationists and environmentalists have expressed dismay at the grim numbers from the study.

“The interim findings are shocking. It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

“This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” he added.

Experts had warned in January that the massive loss of life due to the fires threatened to cross a tipping-point 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. This includes such critically endangered species as the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum, whose habitats were ravaged by the fires.

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Kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, potoroos, bandicoots, echidnas, and other species also saw their habitats devastated by the fires, with the inferno extending to wetlands, dry eucalyptus forests, and even rainforests, the leaving creatures little space to find refuge.

According to a government report released earlier this year, some 100 native plant and animal species saw half of their habitat lost to the blazes, raising fears of unprecedented and horrific losses.

Chris Dickman, an ecology professor at the University of Sydney and Australian Academy of Science fellow who oversaw the project, had estimated in January that the losses were likely to exceed one billion.

Following the release of the study this week, Dickman told The Guardian that the revised number approaching three billion came as a brutal shock to the researchers.

“Three thousand million native vertebrates is just huge. It’s a number so big that you can’t comprehend it,” Dickman said. “It’s almost half the human population of the planet.”

Dickman added that while much of the attention had been focused on the devastating loss of koalas, the fire’s impact was more far-reaching and had wrought horrific losses on smaller species such as skinks, a reptile that can live in densities exceeding 1,500 per hectare (10,000 square meters).

The report details how with over 15,000 blazes across Australia’s states, the fire season ranked as the worst ever recorded. According to the report, the fires had an impact on over 11.46 million hectares (28.32 million acres).

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Arnulf Köhncke, species protection expert at WWF Germany, told DW that the disastrous wave of bushfires could be a sign of things to come.

“The record fires in Australia could become the new normal, just a taste of what’s to come, if we don’t manage to limit the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit),” Köhncke said.

O’Gorman noted that with extreme fires fast becoming the norm, the Australian study can “give other countries a window into the future of mega fires and their devastating impact on wildlife” and hopefully compel changes on a policy level.

Scientists have warned that climate change is lengthening summers in Australia and making them more dangerous, while shortened winters are making it harder to do bushfire prevention work.

Authors also called for an end to land clearance that depletes biodiversity and allows for the growth of megafires, habitat connectivity that can allow animals escape routes in case of large fires, and rapid response wildlife teams that can help mitigate the impact on threatened species.

According to WWF, a final report should be completed by the end of August.

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Animals

Scientists Catch a Glimpse of a Ultra-Rare Giant Phantom Jelly, With Bizarre Ribbon-Like Arms

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Researchers have seen a large deep-sea jellyfish with the assistance of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Doc Ricketts off the coast of California, in an extremely rare sighting. The footage revealed the creature’s unique and exquisite features.

The uncommon encounter was documented in November this year, 990 meters (3,200 ft) deep in Monterey Bay, according to a report issued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

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The enigmatic phantom jellyfish was initially discovered in 1899, but scientists did not recognize it as a distinct species until 1960. Scientists still know very little about this creature.

The specimen of the huge phantom jelly has only been seen 110 times in 110 years across the world. According to the MBARI research, despite thousands of dives, their ROVs have only observed this amazing species nine times.

The huge phantom jellyfish has the following characteristics:

The bell of this deep-sea denizen is more than one meter (3.3 feet) broad, with four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can grow to be more than 10 meters (33 feet) long, according to an MBARI report.

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The species is said to inhabit anywhere between the surface and 21,900 feet in depth. It does, however, remain in the twilight zone, which is just beyond the reach of sunlight.

The organism, formally known as ‘Stygiomedusa gigantea’, is found all across the planet except in the Arctic Ocean, according to the experts.

Youtube Screenshot

It’s worth noting that, in the past, scientists depended on trawl-nets to examine deep-sea species; but, the jellies, which transform into a viscous goo in trawl nets, were difficult to research using this outdated method. Fish, crabs, and squids are among the only creatures that can be effectively studied from nets.

Researchers may now examine these creatures in their native habitat with high-definition footage thanks to the robot cams. I, personally, prefer this “no-touch” approach.

Watch the mesmerizing video here:

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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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.

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