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Biodiversity loss is a flaming tragedy

  • 13 January 2020


There are so many details about these unprecedented bushfires that I have no idea how to process. Like so many in Australia, I have spent hours staring in disbelief at the sheer number of fires raging across NSW alone, watching clips showing glimpses of their incredible size and ferocity, and grieving the millions of acres of forest laid to waste in their wake.

As a country, we have cried over the human lives lost, and tried to contemplate the economic and emotional toll of the thousands of homes and properties destroyed, in addition to the mass evacuations of people. I doubt we will ever forget those images of evacuees huddled by the water on New Year's Eve under a deep red sky; or of the brave little boy accepting a medal on behalf of the father he lost so young.

But nothing — including the ever-present shroud of acrid smoke that has blanketed my city since November — has brought home the scale of this tragedy quite like the estimation that one billion native animals have been killed.

One billion. I honestly can't get my head around such a number, especially as it doesn't even include frogs, insects or other invertebrates. How do we even measure the cost of such a loss?

At a basic level, we must consider the cost of each and every one of these lives. This was most horrifically illustrated by that haunting image of the young joey trapped in a fence, but each one of those animals had a life of value, and experienced fear and pain as it was taken from them.

There is also the specific impact of these deaths on threatened species. The fires have had a devastating effect on species such as koalas, brush-tailed rock wallabies, the Kangaroo Island dunnart, and the quokka, whose very survival may now have been pushed to the brink.

Australia was already facing an extinction crisis. We have the dubious honour of leading the world in mammal extinctions. And this brings us to the most significant cost of these deaths (especially when combined with the destruction of all of those millions of acres of forest) — the incredible loss of biodiversity.


"We should all be paying attention to this review, along with the need for our state and federal governments to take real action in response to the repeated recommendations of experts."


Australia's most recent State of the Environment Report emphasised the fundamental value