Australians Help Koalas, Other Animals Survive Fires

    14 January 2020

    The Australian government said this week it will spend over 34 million dollars on helping wildlife recover from bushfires.

    The bushfires crisis threatens several animal species, including koalas and rock wallabies.

    Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby
    Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby

    Josh Frydenberg is the Treasurer of Australia. He told reporters on Monday, "This has been an ecological disaster, a disaster that is still unfolding." He spoke during a visit to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where workers are treating 45 koalas for burns.

    Frydenberg added that Australia's native trees and plants had been "very badly damaged."

    Huge wildfires have destroyed more than 11.2 million hectares - nearly half the area of Britain. The fires destroyed or severely damaged the areas where several native animals live.

    Some estimates suggest as many as one billion creatures have died in the fires or are at risk now because of a lack of food and shelter. This number includes farm animals and family pets like cats and dogs.

    People around the world are sharing images of animals that survived the fires and videos of people risking their lives to help Australian wildlife.

    Food from the sky

    In one program, national park employees used helicopters to air drop thousands of kilos of carrots and sweet potatoes to brush-tailed rock wallabies in New South Wales (NSW).

    The state's environment minister Matt Kean said giving them this food is one way Australians are trying to help endangered animals like the wallaby.

    "The wallabies typically survive the fire itself," he said, but they have no natural food left after the fire passes.

    Australia's national symbol

    The koala is a national symbol, so Frydenberg said it would be a focus of national government spending. He added that the full amount of the damage would not be known until the bushfires are out. Experts say the fires could continue burning for months.

    Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box said an estimated 30 percent of koala habitat in New South Wales state may have been lost. Koalas have heavy fur, and usually climb higher when they are in danger. That is not helpful in fast-moving bushfires.

    "Everything that can be done to rescue and recover koala habitat will be done," noted Sussan Ley, Australia's Federal Environment Minister.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    Sonali Paul reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    unfold – v. to happen as time passes

    park – n. an enclosed piece of ground; a protected space or area

    symbol n. something that stands for or represents something

    focusn. a center of activity or attention

    habitatn. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows

    furn. hair

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