Wildfires are not uncommon in Australia. As a matter of fact, they occur annually. But due to increasingly extreme weather conditions and a contentious management of hazard-reduction burns, fires have become uncontrollable. As the fires in Australia have been burning since June, blazing through an area of approximately 25.5 million acres, killing at least 27 people and as wells as one billion of animals across the country, it is time to take a look at the situation. see what areas are most impacted, ask what is being done by the authorities, and finally what we may be looking at for the future.
What is the current situation in Australia?
New South Wales was is the worst hit state in Australia, as bushfires have spread through more than five million hectares, burned down over 2,000 houses, and caused thousands of people to be displaced. Still on 13 January, 105 fires were burning across NSW, 38 of which were still uncontained, the Rural Fire Service said.
Meanwhile a so-called mega blaze has formed at the border between NSW and Victoria. This came as two fires merged south of the Snowy Mountains. As a result of the strong winds and heat, an area four times the size of Greater London is on fire.
Yet these are not the only affected areas, as highlighted in the disastrous situation on Kangaroo Island and in Western Australia.
What is being done?
Australian firefighters are still hard at work in a daily struggle to contain the fires. They have recently received assistance from firefighters from the US or New Zealand. But what about the wildlife?
On 13 January the government announced the creation of a USD50 million fund to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the fires. This was supported by environment groups releasing a list of fauna that are most endangered. These include:
- The Glossy black cockatoo – a unique Kangaroo Island based sub-species
- The Kangaroo Island dunnart – a rare small marsupial
- The Koala, the Hastings River mouse – a small rodent from NSW
- The Regent Honeyeater – a NSW bird believed to be critically endangered due to loss of habitat
- The Blue Mountains water skink – a unique reptile
- The Brush-tailed rock-wallaby – an already endangered species in NSW
- The Southern corroboree frog – a native of the NSW alpine regions of Ginini Flats
- The Quokka – a small macropod known online as the “happiest animal of the Planet”, mostly located in Western Australia’s Stirling Island and Rottnest Island
- The Western ground parrot – a species of less than 150 individuals living in Cape Arid national park
- The Northern eastern bristlebird – native of north eastern NSW and south eastern Queensland, it is feared that fewer than 50 individuals subsist
- The Greater glider – a small marsupial native to NSW and Victoria
While the Australian government already declared a state of emergency back in November, the bushfires could reveal a lot about our future as a planet. Australia’s bushfires occur as the average temperature rise on the continent is 1.4C above preindustrial levels. Australia is heating more rapidly than the global average that is 1.1C. With global temperatures likely to continue rising, this is the type of climate that could be expected worldwide in case of a 3C rise, scientists say.