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More than 1 billion animals estimated dead in Australia wildfires: Expert


MOLLYMOOK, AUSTRALIA — More than 1 billion animals are estimated to have died in the devastating wildfires ravaging Australia, an expert said Wednesday.

More than 800 million of those animals are estimated to have been killed in New South Wales alone, according to a statement from The University of Sydney.

“It’s events like this that may well hasten the extinction process for a range of other species,” Professor Chris Dickman of The University of Sydney, the expert who made the estimate, told National Public Radio.

Dickman, an ecologist, has more than 30 years of experience in the conservation and management of Australian mammals. He is the former president of the Australian Mammal Society and the Royal Zoological Society of NSW.

Previous numbers estimated that more than 480 million animals had been killed since the September fires began.

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia, Dec. 31, 2019. Matthew Abbott/The New York Times via Redux

However, Dickman warns that he was deliberately conservative with the estimates and expects the true mortality rate “to be substantially higher.”

The animals in the estimate include mammals (excluding bats), birds and reptiles, but does not include frogs, insects or other invertebrates. ABC News has reached out to Dickman for more details.

Australia’s fire season typically runs from December to March, but these fires began in September and are expected to last for several more months.

The staggering loss of life is the latest catastrophic effect the fires have had on the country.

So far this fire season, 1,687 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales, with 771 homes lost since Jan. 1 alone, according to the state’s Rural Fire Service.

An injured koala rests in a basket at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in the Parndana region on January 8, 2020 on Kangaroo Island, Australia. Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

“That figure is likely to increase,” a tweet from the firefighting agency read.

Paula Ugrinov, a resident of Mogo, New South Wales, was one of the many residents who lost her home.

She received a call from her neighbor that her house had been destroyed, and on Wednesday, she returned to see it for herself.

A firefighter manages a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, Jan. 8, 2020, set in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. Rick Rycroft/AP

“It’s just so naked. It looks bizarre,” Ugrinov told ABC News’ Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee.

Ugrinov said she isn’t sure what she will do next, but is confident Mogo will stand tall once again.

“I just think that the community will pull together even stronger. It will be restored,” she said. “I believe God can work through this and restore.”