Experts have said that more than 1 billion animals may have died in Australian wildfires since September as authorities worked to crack down on the perpetrators.
University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman told the Huffington Post the figure in an update of his prior estimate of 480 million a week ago.
“The original figure―the 480 million―was based on mammals, birds, and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now―in New South Wales alone,” he said. “If 800 million sounds a lot, it’s not all the animals in the firing line,” he added.
Dickman included bats, frogs, and invertebrates in the latest figure. “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure,” he told the website.
On Jan. 3, the University of Sydney said that “many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes.”
And according to Australian Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie, the wildfires are devastating the country’s livestock.
“I’ve got 100 vets across the country I’ve offered to state [agriculture] ministers,” she told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. “I know South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales will be taking up that offer to get that assistance as soon as possible—to not just assess the health, but these teams will also be euthanizing stock.”
On Monday, the New South Wales police force said that since Nov. 8, officials have taken legal action against more than 180 people, including 24 people who were charged with alleged fire-related offenses. “Numerous bush and grass fires have impacted the state, claiming the lives of 18 people and destroying hundreds of millions of animals and livestock, thousands of homes, and more than 4.9 million hectares of land, so far this bushfire season,” police said.
“In my mind, anybody that lights a fire either necessarily or unnecessarily against the total fire ban is putting the community at risk and that needs to be pulled up, called out and in many cases, to be put before the court,” Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said at a press conference on Tuesday, reported News.com.au.