30 animals threatened by the Australian wildfires
Australia is currently in peril. As wildfires tear through much of the continent’s driest regions, wildlife is suffering dramatically. Here, we showcase the animals that are likely to suffer the greatest. We hope this knowledge will translate into greater empathy and charity for the hurting Australian landmass.
Like koalas, kangaroos are one of the more iconic Australian animals. And, also like koalas, they are dying in record numbers. On the aptly named Kangaroo Island, where kangaroos, koalas, and other species live, the fires have been particularly bad. Hundreds upon hundreds of these creatures are thought to be savaged by the fire.
While there are many different species of kangaroo, many of these are in danger. This is especially true on Kangaroo Island, where recent estimates have put the damage at around one-third the island’s size. Hopefully efforts can minimize, or at least reduce, the spread of the growing flames and help save these imperiled species.
The rainbow lorikeet is arguably one of the most beautiful birds around. Its florid color scheme entices more than just the accomplished bird-watcher and ornithologist (somebody who studies birds). It also attracts the eyes of those trying to save it. This has become, as you might have predicted, a particular problem with the growing fires.
One disturbing find is that many of these birds have died and washed ashore on beaches. The sad plight of the rainbow lorikeet is shared by numerous other species, however. With abundant smoke in the atmosphere and caustic fumes pummeling the birds as they fly, it’s no wonder they don’t stand a chance.
Wombats are often described — endearingly, we might add — as stumpy with a strong musculature. We’re not sure why they needed all of this muscle. Probably to show off. Whatever it is, the buff Australian marsupial is endangered by the blazing fires currently tearing across Australia.
Like other marsupials, these animals were endangered before the blazing fires began to spread. The fires, then, have only made things much, much worse. To try and hide from the growing flames, some wombats have sought refuge in the burrows of other animals (which maintain a much cooler temperature than the surface above). Hopefully we can get them to come out on top.
Another nocturnal Australian marsupial, the yellow-bellied glider is no coward. Making its living by gliding along the skyline in search of insect prey, this more diminutive species of possum makes its living in trees from Queensland to Victoria. While the species was relatively OK prior to the fires, it is in danger now.
Because the species sticks to the forests getting burned, it is going to lose both its habitat and its way of life. So not only is it currently exposed to the flames directly, but any surviving animals will have to deal with a lack of food or habitat once it’s over. This horrifying situation has put many on edge. Hopefully we can help the species bounce back.
Sometimes the names that biologists throw around for species boggles the mind. This is certainly the case for the long-footed potoroo — at least in regard to how they describe this guy. For example, they tend to refer to it as a “rat-kangaroo.” Weird. Anyway, the way that scientists describe it in no way saves it from the flames.
Unfortunately, the plight of the long-footed potoroo is made worse by the fact that the creature was already endangered before the fires began. It was, in fact, on a recovery plan. The fires are expected to deconstruct this plan, possibly putting the animal on the fast track toward extinction. Hopefully efforts can help to save this species.
The carpenter bee is a little bit like the common bumblebee, but a little bit different. Instead of a hairy belly that hovers above the ground, like its bumblebee equivalent, its belly is barren. But other than that, the bee makes its nests in the hollow cutouts of trees and other plants. As you might have suspected, these plants are getting charred by the flames.
Because of the spreading fire, Australia’s once-thriving carpenter bee population is in decline — the mango trees and other flora it used to inhabit are shrinking from the flames. Considering that the bee is one of the larger species in Australia, it is particularly likely to suffer damage. Hopefully it can bounce back when the fires begin to subside.
Other than the native and indigenous species that are currently suffering from these large dry-season fires, farm animals have begun to suffer as well. Many farmers are feeling this directly in their livestock. Cattle, for instance, are suffering tremendously from the burning — sometimes directly caught in the flames, other times having to inhale fumes.
Many of these fires have torn directly through farms, cutting down any of the livestock in their wake. Cattle farmers inland of Sydney, then, have been suffering mightily. The consequences of this livestock damage will have long-reaching effects that will extend far beyond the damage done during fire season.
Southern corroboree frogs
The bright-yellow southern corroboree frog is one of the most strikingly beautiful of Australian amphibians. While the species has been critically endangered for quite some time, the fires tearing through the countryside are only making their peril worse. Estimates before the flames had put the number of remaining species at around 50 individual frogs.
Considering the limited habitat of the brightly colored frog, it is more than likely that any fire damage will have drastic consequences. Whether increased sedimentation or pollution, the delicate ecosystem in which these frogs live their existence is clearly in jeopardy. Let’s hope that scientists and conservationists can keep this beautiful frog going.
Mountain pygmy possums
The mountain pygmy possum is another of the Australian marsupials that is being imperiled by the countless fires. This species in particular, which makes its living among the rocky outcrops of the rugged Australian alpine, is already endangered. Estimates had placed the number of remaining species at around 2,000 to 3,000 prior to the fire.
With the flames, a drastic reduction is inevitable. We can only hope that conservation efforts are enough to rescue this dwindling population from total and utter extinction. Acting within such turmoil, however, is no easy feat. This is especially true when the natural habitat of the animal you’re trying to save is in the high alpine.
Common brushtail possums
The common brushtail possum, on a regular day, is an Australian marsupial that sticks to the night. More than that, it also sticks to the trees. Unfortunately, neither of these traits are able to save the possum from the scorching flames. Even more unfortunately, given that the animal largely feeds on leaves (these types of animals are called folivores), its food source is quickly diminishing.
The common brushtail is getting subsumed in many different places from the flames. Because the animal lives in hollow caverns carved out of trees, its natural habitat is in short supply. Forced to roam the hot lands, it doesn’t take much for tragedy to follow. We hope that conservation efforts can preserve the health and existence of this species.
In Australia, the brush-tailed rock-wallaby lives in areas that surround the Sydney coastline. Unfortunately, this puts it directly in the path of the New South Wales fires. To make matters worse, the species was already considered endangered. This means that the damage from the insurmountable fires is likely to push back the consorted conservation efforts.
The formidable talents of the rock-wallaby, then, which include things like scrambling up and down precipitous cliffs with deft fingers and toes, are waning in number. We can only hope that the efforts to diminish the flames help to save this endangered species.
The glossy black-cockatoo is given its name because it is both glossy and black (and a cockatoo). The bird species is endemic — that is, local — to many different parts of Australia. Some of these places are those currently ablaze. In the areas it calls home south of Queensland and on Kangaroo Island, for instance, its populations are in trouble.
While the glossy black-cockatoo was not endangered before the fires, unlike many of the other species on this list, the gross damage that the flames are spreading might change that. While we’re hopeful efforts can keep these guys going, we can never be too safe. Let’s hope we can quell the flames.
The dunnart is one of the smaller creatures on this list. The tiny marsupial is nocturnal, narrow-footed, and about the size of a small European mouse. It also looks a bit like a mouse. While there are many different species of dunnart (including the fat-tailed and striped-faced dunnart), each is imperiled by the growing flames.
Like many of the other species on this list, the dunnart lives in areas drastically affected by the fires. While the animal spends its day sleeping in its burrows, the surrounding habitat that the little one calls home is quickly getting ravaged. On Kangaroo Island, where fires are particularly bad, ecologists expect the marsupial might be in critical danger.
One of the most iconic of Australian marsupials, the koala is suffering mightily at the hands of the recent New South Wales fires. Tragically, we have seen image after image of the little guys walking to and from large fires — sometimes badly burned. But the tragedy doesn’t stop there: with the wildfires comes a massive loss in habitat.
Because of the sheer number of koalas the southern coast of Australia is thought to have lost, people fear that the animal is getting closer to extinction. Some estimates have put the numbers at around 25,000, and that number is only expected to grow as the fires burn on.
The yellow-tailed black-cockatoo is another species that calls the area of New South Wales home. And, given that this is one of the areas currently engulfed in fire, it is no wonder that the species is suffering a decline in population. Like the rainbow lorikeet species of parrot mentioned earlier, this bird is now often found washed ashore.
And, like with many of the other species on this list, the cockatoos were already suffering low numbers. It is no surprise, then, that many ecologists are worried whether this beautiful and unique bird will survive to future generations. We can only hope that conservation and rescue efforts can keep their lineage going.
Echidnas are one of those species that many people mistake for something else. For the most part, this is because they have spiky quills that make them resemble another famous and similarly adapted creature: the porcupine. While adapted to the same sort of evolutionary niche, it is the echidna that is getting burned in the Australian fires, not the porcupine.
You can find echidnas across many different parts of the Australian mainland, as well as nearby islands like Tasmania, New Guinea, and Kangaroo Island. It’s only on the latter of these, however, that their numbers are rapidly plummeting. While the echidna will likely survive this horrible tragedy, its numbers in Australia are suffering.
Southern brown bandicoots
We have already mentioned the dunnart and a few similarly related species. Here, however, we have a specific species of dunnart that is struggling to cope with the widespread flames: the southern brown bandicoot. What makes the story of the southern brown bandicoot so heart-wrenching is that, like a few others currently in peril, their numbers were already low.
The southern brown bandicoot, while scattered over a few different spots in Australia, is only known to live in two locations that are experiencing fires. On the eastern side of the island, there is one population to the north and another to the south. Both of these populations will suffer greatly from the insurmountable flames.
Goannas are a group of monitor lizards (like the Komodo dragon) that live in Australia and nearby Southeast Asia. In Asia, however, the species is not suffering from any serious fires. The Australian goannas, on the other hand, are suffering from not only a diminishing food source and habitat, but also from the dangers of the fire itself.
Some of the goannas actually capitalize on the fires, feeding off the prey in the now-barren land. After many smaller animals emerge from their burrows, the goanna will swoop in and attack. For some, this is an extremely effective strategy. But while it might prove effective for the goanna, it is worse for the species on which it preys.
Giant fruit bats
The giant fruit bat is another species that doesn’t fare well with the rising heat. The species can only exist within a narrow bandwidth of temperatures. When the climate pushes beyond these, the number of surviving animals begins to plummet. This is currently what’s happening to the giant fruit bat of Australia.
What makes this problem particularly sad is that the giant fruit bat of Australia is literally quite giant — almost freakishly giant. The average size can measure up to 1 foot in length and over a pound-and-a-half in weight. I don’t know about you, but I would say that is fairly large. Hopefully the species can be saved before it is too late.
The regent honeyeaters of Australia are another species of bird that has been labeled — even before the fires began — as critically endangered. Again, because of this, the damage done by the fires to them directly and to their natural habitat will have drastic and far-reaching consequences for the remaining birds alive.
The rare species can only be found in New South Wales and Victoria, which makes the devastation of these two areas all the worse. Considering that this species of bird helps to indicate the level of thriving for other species in the area, its decline will not be good for any nearby species.
Black flying foxes
The black flying fox is another species of bat that is struggling to cope with the growing climate crisis. Because their bodies are not as able to adapt to the shifting climate and warming temperatures, they are beginning to dwindle in number. In one particular year, heat stresses were so severe as to kill 1,300 animals.
These numbers are only expected to grow worse as the climate crisis worsens and temperatures continue to climb. To deal with this crisis, ecologists are not sure what to do. Hopefully they can figure out a problem such that we don’t lose one of the largest bat species on Earth.
The Maori octopus, unlike most of the other species on this list, is actually set to thrive. Because the octopus, like many other octopuses, has a short reproduction cycle, it is well-equipped to adapt. While many other species won’t be able to change in time, this isn’t true of the octopus.
In these warming waters, then, it is likely that octopuses like the Maori will survive, thrive, and proliferate. While this is good news for the octopuses, it still shows what it takes for other species to adapt — something that many animals don’t and cannot get: short life cycles and quick reproduction times.
Abalone, what some might consider one of the most expensive seafoods in the world, is another of those Australian species that is not faring well with the shifting climate. As the temperatures climb, the crustaceans descend into an early and pearlescent grave. The world would lose much more than a classy seafood with this shellfish, however.
Other than the warming waters, this species of marine snail is also imperiled by over-poaching. Because the sea-dwelling snail is a sought-after staple of many fancy diets, people overfish them in the oceans. The plight of the abalone, then, is created from many different angles. Hopefully people will do what they can to help conserve it.
Yellow-bellied sea snakes
The yellow-bellied sea snake is not given its name because of its cowardice, but rather because it quite literally has a yellow stomach. Other notable characteristics of the creature are that it is an extremely venomous sea snake that lives in eastern Australia. Yikes. But beyond all the potential peril lies another species that is endangered by climate change.
Because of its wide range across the globe, the species will likely survive into the future. It’s possible that it might even adapt to the changing conditions and take over the world — in whatever world that a venomous sea snake could. Either way, watch yourself in the world’s oceans if you expect to see this guy.
There are some species that in the wake of the flames can use resourceful techniques to help avoid getting burned. The reed frog is one such species. This Australian amphibian is equipped with devices that can help it detect the crackling of fire and then to run when it does. So while the flames come for this guy, they might not reach it.
While this in no way means that the reed frog won’t suffer other consequences of the near-ubiquitous flames, it does mean that it has some hope. This tale is one we need to hear in the wake of all the tumult that the fires are doing to other species. We hope that other animals similarly use such strategies to help them flee the flames.
Eastern red bats
The eastern red bat is closely related to a few of the other flying fox species we talked about earlier — they are imperiled by the changing climate. This eastern red bat, however, because it’s smaller in size, is not in as much danger. But what really helps this guy is that he is especially adept at detecting fires.
In Australia, then, where wildfires currently blaze and cut through the dry land, this bat has the ability to detect when the fires are coming and to get up and flee. We’re happy that this bat might be able to survive and thrive into the future. Hopefully climate change doesn’t get worse such that the bat can’t overcome these obstacles.
Another story of animal resilience is the fire beetle. And, in case its name didn’t give it away, the fire beetle actually takes advantage of this fire-torn environment in order to breed. The fire beetle likes to make its home in fire-trodden trees. The burnt environment is like a natural aphrodisiac for this beetle.
So, unlike most of the other species on this list, the fire beetle likely won’t suffer in the same regard. While this doesn’t speak much to the other species’ ability to bounce back, it does suggest that some animals will survive and thrive. Perhaps they’ll be able to repopulate the lands in whatever form remains.
The banksia plant is relatively common in Australia. And because of its interesting and beautiful flowering, many people plant it in their gardens. While there are numerous different species of the plant, a few of them are of more ecological importance than others. A few species in particular, for example, host the carpenter bee.
Banksia plants that find their home in New South Wales, southern Queensland, or other areas affected by the fires, then, are liable to burn. And because of this, it is not only them that will suffer — the species to which they’ve provided hospitality will also diminish in number. Conservation efforts for this plant, then, will be twofold.
Some species are not imperiled by the Australian fires per se, but instead by the problem that caused it — global warming. The giant kelp of Australia is one such species. Having once thrived along much of the Australian coastline, the giant kelp forests are now circumscribed to a small island.
This tragedy is created by the changing temperature in the waters, pushing the kelp forests out of their comfort zone. Because of this, they end up getting slimy, washing ashore, and dying. Since this kelp acts as the ecosystem glue for many other species, the loss of the kelp forest affects more than just those interested in the kelp.
Spring midge orchids
The spring midge orchid is another species of plant currently imperiled by the growing fires in Australia. While the species differs as you move from southern to northern parts of the continent, the extent of the fires make it such that nearly every species is in danger. This isn’t only a problem for those who admire the flower.
Because the spring midge orchid doesn’t call that many spots home (in fact, it can’t call much anything because it doesn’t have any means through which to talk), these fires jeopardize the few environments in which it can live. Conservationists, as a result, are extremely worried about the potential demise of this beautiful flowering plant.