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NYT: Thousands Flee to Shore as Australia Fires Turn Skies Blood Red


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Australia fires: State of emergency declared for Canberra region

 

Authorities in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have declared a state of emergency as massive bushfires rage south of Canberra.

 

It is the worst fire threat to the territory in nearly two decades, officials said.

 

The main blaze, in the territory's south, is burning over more than 18,500 hectares.

 

 

Residents in suburbs of Canberra have been urged to "remain alert" for potential evacuations.

 

 

"The ACT is now facing the worst bushfire threat since the devastating fires of 2003," Chief Minister Andrew Barr told reporters on Friday.

 

"There's now no higher priority for the ACT government at this time than the bushfire threat."

 

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Kangaroos and Koalas Are Dying in Australia's Hellfires. Wild Brumbies and Feral Cats Are Taking Over.

 

Australia’s wildfires have already killed an estimated one billion animals, and in some cases, not even rescue operations can save the rest. Veterinarians have started carrying .22 rifles to euthanize critically injured kangaroos: The charred ground can burn their feet too badly for them to survive.

 

But many invasive species, which outcompete animals that only live in Australia, have thrived in the devastation left behind by months of flames. Wild brumbies, for example — a non-native breed of wild horses — have no trouble trotting across the scalding landscape with their hooves. Because no hooved animal is native to Australia, the brumbies are chomping up sprouting plants native species can’t reach.

 

Since they started in August, the bushfires have destroyed more than 40,000 square miles, an area the size of Ohio, and decimated fragile ecosystems that have survived for millenia. But some invasive species, which the Australian government has tried to control in the past several years, are thriving. In addition to the brumbies, feral cats and red foxes have an easier time hunting in the fires. Just last year, the Australian government essentially declared war on the cats and aimed to cull 2 million of them.

 

Now, invasive species pose such a threat to Australia’s ecosystems, they could help wipe out animals that live on the continent and nowhere else.

 

“It’s ecosystem collapse that we’re really scared of,” said Jess Abrahams with the Australian Conservation Foundation. 

 

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