Heatwaves and Fires: Hell on Earth for Australia's Wildlife
January 29, 2018 International Fund for Animal Wildlife & National Geographic & Nikkei Asian Review
After an intense heat wave in Australia which spiked past 117°F this month, the animal death toll in New South Wales is climbing. The extreme heat and bushfires in New South Wales, Australia are scorching animals' homes. Helpless animals have been left orphaned and suffering from heat exhaustion, starvation and burns. Your urgently needed gift can help save suffering wildlife in New South Wales, Australia and animals in need throughout the world.
It's a Hell on Earth: Intense heat wave wreaks
havoc on wildlife in New South Wales International Fund for Animal Wildlife
(January 27, 2018) -- After an intense heat wave in Australia which spiked past 117°F this month, the animal death toll in New South Wales is climbing.
Thousands of flying foxes have dropped from the sky and hundreds of egrets have abandoned their nests -- leaving their babies orphaned, suffering from the extreme heat, and in desperate need of care . . .
We're working with our local partners to save heat-stressed birds, flying foxes and joeys, and we're rehabilitating them so that they can return to the wild where they belong.
We need your help to purchase food and lifesaving medical supplies so we can save these animals before it's too late. These orphaned and suffering animals need you! We need you to help us save these animals and all the animals that need us.
You can help us provide these suffering animals with everything they urgently need: water spray kits to hydrate the animals, shade cloths to protect young birds vulnerable to heat stroke, and the food to nourish these animals through their recovery.
Making the need even more desperate, thousands of wild animals have suffered terrible burns and lost their homes after bushfires recently spread across parts of the New South Wales region.
The fires scorched their habitat -- leaving these poor animals with nowhere to find relief. We're aiding in the rescue of these animals and helping to nurse them through their recovery in the coming months.
As you may know, an unfortunate fact of a heat wave this severe is that this bushfire will not be the last threat to wildlife. Your donation can alleviate the pain and suffering of these animals.
Abby" and "Bailey" -- pictured above -- are the two adorable orphaned joeys our partner Hunter Wildlife Rescue saved from the bushfire. With the support of caring people like you, they can rebound from this tragedy and one day grow up to thrive in their natural environment.
Every individual animal we can save is critical -- not just because it pains us to know a vulnerable animal is suffering, but also for the crucial role it plays in its environment.
But there's more heat in the coming days. Hundreds more animals may collapse from heat exhaustion, suffer agonizing burns from the bushfire, and be brought to the brink of starvation as food sources are destroyed.
Anything you can donate today can help us care for animal victims of Australia's heat wave and animals throughout the world.
(January 9, 2018) -- While the Northern Hemisphere has been visited by a low-hanging polar vortex, blizzards, and wintry cyclones, the Southern Hemisphere is feeling some very different extremes.
Australia is experiencing nearly record high temperatures reaching just over 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It's been so hot that asphalt melted on a stretch of highway, and local news outlets reported a surge in attendance at Australian beaches as residents struggle to escape dangers like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Australian wildlife has also been impacted by the intense heat.
According to conservation group Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, which operates just south of Sydney, more than 400 flying foxes from a local bat colony were found dead, possibly due to the heat. Pictures show rows of flying fox bodies collected from trees or where they were found after dropping to the ground.
Flying foxes are a type of large bat, and six species can be found in Australia. The Australian government officially lists one of those species as critically endangered and two others as vulnerable, while some species can be found in abundance and have at times been labeled a nuisance.
As a species, flying foxes help maintain a healthy ecosystem, because they are one of the country's most active pollinators. It's unclear if the die-off will impact their populations overall. But speaking with Australian TV station Sky News, a spokesperson from the Campbelltown group predicted that thousands could succumb to the heat before the summer's end.
Kate Ryan, a Campbelltown flying fox colony manager, told local outlet Macarthur Advertiser hat the heat has deadly impacts on the animals' brains. "It would be like standing in the middle of a sandpit with no shade," she said of being a flying fox roosting in a tree.
Scott Heinrich, director of the Flying Fox Conservation Fund, says many flying foxes drop from trees because of dehydration. In 2014, the last time Australia experienced comparable temperatures, more than 45,000 flying foxes are estimated to have died from the heat.
"They can't cool their body down at that point," Heinrich says. "In a way, they're kind of boiling in their bodies."
The flying mammals aren't the only Australian animals struggling with the heat. Wildlife groups have been actively spraying down koalas that are perched in trees. Koalas are easily startled by people, so the Melbourne-based Koala Clancy Foundation has been promoting a technique that entails spraying koalas from long distances with a specific type of quiet hose.
It's unclear if any koalas have died in this heatwave, but the animals have increasingly struggled with hot, dry Australian summers, and some experts fear that climate change could exacerbate the problem.
Koalas primarily hydrate by eating water-filled eucalyptus leaves, and the trees are among their most important habitats. However, University of Sydney researchers concluded last March that hotter, drier conditions were drying out leaves and forcing koalas from trees.
"Increasing hot and dry conditions will mean more droughts and heat waves affecting the koalas' habitat," Valentina Mella, a University of Sydney postdoctoral researcher, said at the time.
In 2013, National Geographic pondered whether Australia was the face of climate change to come. The research that has since followed makes this prediction seem increasingly likely.
Australia released a State of the Climate report in 2016 that shows surface and ocean warming of a mean one degree Celsius in the country since 1910. The report also found that rainfall decreased by 19 percent since 1970 and extreme heatwaves had increased in both frequency and intensity.
Just last October, a study from the Australian National University in Canberra predicted that the country could see summer temperatures reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040.
In addition to the animals taken in by wildlife officials, Australian residents have posted comments on the rescue groups' update posts claiming that kookaburras and pygmy possums were observed drinking from backyard birdbaths or hiding under homes for shade. Animals are also susceptible to burning their paws if they walk on hot asphalt.
The wildlife rescue group Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service has a tip sheet for how to identify heat exhaustion in various species of animals. Wildlife Bears the Brunt of Australia's 'Angry Summer' Flying foxes, loggerhead turtles
among animals dying amid extreme heat Sian Powell / Nikkei Asian Review
SYDNEY (April 6, 2017) -- Record-breaking summer heat waves in recent months have left Australians sweating and uncomfortable and killed thousands of animals, graphically illustrating the dangers that climate change poses to the world's driest inhabited continent.
With temperatures topping 42 C along the country's eastern seaboard, thousands of indigenous flying foxes have been dropping out of their trees, dead or severely distressed. In Queensland, loggerhead turtle hatchlings have been cooked in their shells while trying to reach the ocean across ferociously hot sand.
Wild animals ranging from possums to snakes were forced into aberrant behavior along the New South Wales coast, searching for refuge from the heat inside houses and garages. Koalas came down from their perches in eucalyptus trees to find water.
Dubbed the "angry summer" by the Climate Council of Australia, the season saw more than 200 record-breaking extreme weather events driven by climate change, according to the council's latest report, published on March 7.
The report, Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Supercharging Extreme Weather, shows that summer temperatures soared to unprecedented heights in many parts of Australia, with some state capitals, including Sydney and Brisbane, experiencing their hottest summers on record.
Horse races, football matches and other sporting fixtures were canceled or postponed, and people were warned to keep children and pets as cool as possible. On the hottest days, residents in many areas were warned of power blackouts and asked to increase the temperature targets for their air conditioners and fridges to reduce electricity demand.
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a senior research associate with the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said that comparisons of climate modeling exercises including and excluding the impact of human activities showed that Australia, the driest continent after Antarctica, will get even hotter, and that humans were at least partly responsible for this warming
"What I can tell you for certain is that heat waves will increase in the future, particularly in their frequency. That's pretty much standard everywhere," Perkins-Kirkpatrick told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Heat waves will also increase in their intensity, but by far the biggest signal is the change in frequency," she said.
Increased heat wave frequency is a global phenomenon, Perkins-Kirkpatrick said, adding that the tropics will be hit harder than temperate zones. That is of increasing concern to health professionals in tropical and near-tropical Australia, where excessive heat is known as the "silent killer" because human deaths often occur a day or two after temperature spikes and are frequently recorded as being due to heart or renal failure.
"I know health researchers are really concerned, they're really advocating for more to be done, more research to be done, more implementation to be done," Perkins-Kirkpatrick said.
A review of Australia's environment, published on March 7, found that the effects of climate change are increasing and that in certain cases the changes may be irreversible.
The State of the Environment report, produced every five years for the Australian government by a team of independent experts, found that both air and sea temperatures were rising, with often disastrous results on animal life. The global warming effects included coral bleaching, which has damaged the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
The report also pointed to likely species extinctions due to climate change -- including the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a rodent, and the Christmas Island forest skink (Emoia nativitatis), a lizard.
Grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus), a large, fruit-eating bat with a maximum recorded wingspan of 1.5 meters, were the most visibly affected by the brutal temperatures of the recent heat waves, falling like rotten fruit out of trees in many parts of Australia.
These flying foxes died from the brutal heat. (Photo by AJ Caruana, courtesy of WIRES)
Kristie Harris, rescue office manager at the New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service, said she had received a deluge of phone calls from people wanting to aid the stricken bats. She estimated that thousands of the flying foxes had died from the heat.
"On the really hot days in December and January, there were a couple of events where they have literally been falling out of the trees in their colonies, found by the hundreds or even a thousand at a time, dead or in severe distress," she said.
Flying foxes can usually cope with temperatures up to 42 C by flapping their wings, licking themselves and panting, Harris said. But anything higher than that will likely be fatal. While the grey-headed flying fox is not considered to be endangered, Harris said the summer heat had taken an enormous toll on the giant bats and warned that it would take a long time for colonies to recover.
"That sort of heat affects a huge variety of animals," she said. "Birds are affected enormously -- raptors (birds of prey), reptiles and small mammals like possums."
Turtle hatchlings, too, struggled to make it across scorching-hot sands to the sea during the temperature spikes. Many hundreds died on the sands of Mon Repos beach in southern Queensland, the most important breeding site in the South Pacific for loggerhead turtles.
A broad-scale analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that climate change has already had a particularly damaging effect on endangered mammals and birds, including about half of mammal species and a quarter of bird species on the endangered "red list" kept by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The analysis, which reviewed 130 research papers, found that the range of animals now affected by climate change was extensive, including wildlife on every continent, according to James Watson, an Australian naturalist from the University of Queensland who contributed to the review. "We found things that had limited ranges and specialized diets really were the ones that were suffering, more than generalist species," Watson said.
He and his colleagues found that about 700 bird and animal species were affected by global warming, including eastern gorillas, snow leopards and all species of elephants. Animals that reproduce at a slower rate, including marsupials, have more difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing environment.
Watson said it is time for national leaders to take action to protect the world's fauna with a focus on saving the "last best bits of the wild," rather than degraded environments and imperiled species. Most important, he warned, action should be taken sooner rather than later.
"We can't just say, okay, it's going to happen in the future and we have other priorities," he said. "Policy leaders need to realize that the decisions we make now will lessen climate change impacts in the future."
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