(SPOT.ph) Nearly half a billion animals have been wiped out by the wildfires ravaging Australia since September 2019. The number—which researchers fear are lower than the actual deaths—is expected to continue to rise, and the latest reports do not bode well. Fires decimated a large population of koalas on Kangaroo Island, an animal sanctuary off the coast of South Australia, with rescuers saying on January 5 that around half of the little marsupials did not make it out alive.
An estimated 50,000 koalas called Kangaroo Island home, until fires burned through a third of the area. "Over 50 percent [of the population] has been lost," Sam Mitchell of Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, was quoted as saying in a report by The Straits Times. "Injuries are extreme. Others have been left with no habitat to go back to, so starvation will be an issue in coming weeks," he added.
What makes the loss even more worrying is that this specific population was referred to as the "insurance" group of the wider population of koalas. It is the only large-scale group free from chlamydia, based on a University of Adelaide study headed by PhD candidate Jessica Fabijan. Chlamydia is widespread in koalas elsewhere in the country, with affected groups suffering blindness, infertility, and death due to the bacterial infection.
Clips and photos of koalas walking up to humans to ask for water, or humans risking their own safety to save some, and, of course, firefighters being the godsent beings that they are, have been making rounds online. If you're wondering how you can help—even if you're not in the land down under—a GoFundMe has been started to "Help save Kangaroo Islands Koalas and wildlife." As of writing, donations have already reached AUD $375,157, far from their original AUD $15,000 goal, but we're sure there can never be too much help.