Hundreds of Koalas Threatened by a Fire in Australia
Hundreds of koalas are threatened to burn in a growing fire on Australia's east coast, wildlife advocates said.
The fire, thought to have been caused by a thunderstorm, raging Saturday about 400 kilometres north of Sydney, has devastated an area of more than 4,942 acres. Authorities are still fighting to control it.
Environmentalists in upstate New South Wales have told AFP they fear a "very rare" colony of hundreds of koalas living in the area may be killed.
"The special importance of those koalas is that they are very genetically diverse," Sue Ashton, president of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, told AFP.
Ashton worries that "hundreds" in the known koala breeding area "have perished in the fire".
"It's a national tragedy because this koala population is so unique," she added.
Ashton said volunteers will join firefighters in the area tomorrow assess the scale of loss and launch a rescue operation for the surviving koalas.
"What happens to a koala in a fire is that they climb up to the top of the tree and they curl up into a little ball. If the fire goes through quickly and just singes their fur, they are fine the fur will grow back," she said.
But if the fire intensifies and continues to burn up the tree "they'll perish", she added.
"So we won't really know until we get in there and start to look." the vet finished.