Brushfires in Australia Spell Doom for Wildlife


Janell Wang, Staff Writer

Australia’s brushfires reached catastrophic levels in November 2019, marking the country’s worst fire season in decades and threatening the lives of both people and wildlife alike. 

Unique wildlife that inhabit Australia face possible extinction in light of the recent fires. An estimated 1 billion of Australia’s wildlife, ranging from mammals and birds to reptiles and insects, have been killed by the fires. This has resulted in extensive damage that has devastated more than 40,000 square miles of land. It has been reported that 25 people have died from the fires. Fox News expects damages to total to more than AUS$100 billion by the time the fires end.

The wildfires were started due to extreme heat, droughts, dry lightning, and strong winds that contributed in spreading the fires. Most of the wildlife in Australia is endemic to that region, making it incredibly vulnerable to possible extinction. In addition, unique wildlife such the velvet worm, the Australian alpine grasshopper, the dunnart, the long-footed potoroo, and the glossy black cockatoo all dwell in Australia, which is home to around 70% of the world’s wildlife. These series of brushfires have severely affected the ecosystem and thrown it off-balance. 

Also of note, Australian wildlife is composed of many undiscovered species of insects, with only around a third of recorded species. Now with the threat of extinction, these species may perish before ever being known to science. 

These fires have led to certain species attempting to take advantage of the situation, which has led to more problems. Native species, such as the black kites and whistling kites, have taken to purposely start fires to expose prey, while invasive species like feral cats invade burnt regions to hunt for escaping reptiles.

The fires contribute further to the endangerment of native species that are already threatened by invasive species. Dale Nimmo, a fire ecologist at Charles Sturt University, explained, “It’s not necessarily just the fire that’s the problem. We have landscapes that are really highly modified. We’ve cleared huge amounts of our landscapes for agriculture and urban areas. We’ve introduced a medley of species that like to prey upon our native species. Fire can become that one thing that knocks a species over the edge.”

While Australia’s endemic wildlife is in critical danger of extinction, people are also suffering from the seemingly endless burnings, which have already destroyed 2,000 homes, leaving residents homeless. Moreover, fires threaten to burn again in places that have already been burnt down. The persistence of the fires have disrupted the lives of the people and have left them angry, traumatized, and fatigued. “It’s like the fire is a sentient being. It feels like it’s coming to get us,” stated Sulari Gentill, a novelist whose son and husband are volunteering as firefighters.

If the brushfires in Australia continue to burn, the lives of both the wildlife and the people will continue to be threatened.


Photo courtesy of VOX.COM