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Brushfires ravage Australia’s fragile koala colonies; nearly 1,000 animals may have been incinerated

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THE WASHINGTON POST:

The lucky ones escaped the inferno with singed ears and burned feet, clinging to rescuers who came to save the already imperiled koalas.

But hundreds others of already vulnerable koalas feared dead in a historic bush fire that has torn through the eastern Australia coast, which has claimed the lives of at least four people.

Rescuers and volunteers wandering through charred eucalyptus trees in New South Wales for marsupial survivors have found bleak signs of devastation: koalas incinerated while seeking refuge, leaving ash where conservationists hoped to tally the dead.

“It’s a national tragedy,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan told ABC News Australia.

She estimated earlier this week that as many as 350 koalas had been killed, but conceded that number could certainly rise as koalas dehydrate or starve to death. More than 2.5 million acres have already burned on the east coast, with more fires in the west.

Fire roared through serene Lake Innes Nature Reserve, where as many as 600 koalas lived in a colony and died in the trees while seeking shelter, News.com.au reported.

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