While most major fires have died down after a devastating bushfire season in Australia, the effects on native wildlife and vegetation will linger for longer. An estimated 1 billion animals are believed to have died in the fires, and activist and wildlife specialists are still trying to assess the damage done to the surviving populations.
The wildfires could now amplify a problem that has been putting native Australian animals in danger for centuries. Invasive species – both wild and feral – have been responsible for species extinction and decimation in Australia for a long time. In the aftermath of the fires, wild horses – also known as brumbies – do not have to deal with burned feet like kangaroos, according to Vice, and are expected to thrive and take habitat and food away from native Australian animals. Feral cats, of which millions exist in Australia, have been observed in the past migrating towards burn zones to prey on vulnerable native wildlife and can be expected to do so after this major fire season as well.
As data collected by the Invasive Species Council of Australia shows, feral cats and foxes, who are not native to Australia, bear the main responsibility for the extinction of around 19 mammal species in Australia – the equivalent of approximately 67.5 percent of all mammal extinctions recorded in the country – and played a contributing role in even more. Black rats – common in many parts of the world – have been the main driver behind around 50 percent of bird species extinctions (3 or 4 species). Wolf snakes which immigrated to the continent from Asia finally were responsible for killing off up to four lizard species or 100 percent of all lizard extinctions.