FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2011, file photo, two Koalas climb a tree at a zoo in Sydney, Australia. Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas died in wildfires

October 30, 2019 - 3:33 am

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia's east coast.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital president Sue Ashton says she hopes wildlife carers would be allowed to begin their search of the fire zone for survivors on Thursday.

The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday in a forest in New South Wales state 300 kilometers (190 miles) north of Sydney and has since burnt 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).

Ashton says two-thirds of that area is koala habitat.

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and can survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

Ashton says the koala colony is particularly heathy and genetically diverse. Koalas prefer coastal forests, which are being cleared for suburban expansion.

AP Editorial Categories: