The koala population could be listed as “endangered” in parts of Australia as the devastating bushfires destroyed wide stretches of the animal’s habitat.
The Australian government has pledged $50 million (£26 million) to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the summer fires but environmentalists fear some species and fauna may have already been driven to extinction.
Estimated numbers show around a billion animals have been killed in the wildfires since they began, the human death toll of which stands at 28 and continues to mount, while thousands of homes have been destroyed.
Heartbreaking images show koalas, kangaroos, and other animals after being badly injured as fires burned an estimated 25.5 million acres since September.
Five conservation groups wrote to environment minister, Sussan Ley on Thursday to express concern for at least 13 species, including iconic animals like koalas, kangaroos and wallabies.
Koalas are already listed as vulnerable in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland.
She said the marsupials had taken an “extraordinary hit”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There is no doubt a large number of koalas have lost their lives, many others have been injured,” Ms Ley said.
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“The truth is we don’t know the full extent of that damage until it has been mapped and until these fires are over.”
She said that reviews would be brought forward on whether certain koala populations should be listed as endangered rather than vulnerable.
“It may be necessary to see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered,” she said.
The $50 million commitment will be taken from the government’s $2bn bushfire recovery fund, set up to support the rebuilding of community infrastructure and to help affected farmers and businesses.
The government announced on Monday that $25 million would go directly to wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos based on advice from a panel of experts led by the threatened species commissioner, Sally Box.
According to the Guardian the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg said: “This initial investment of $50 million into the protection and restoration of our wildlife and habitat is a critical step in creating a viable future for the animals that have survived.”
He told reporters on Monday as he visited the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where 45 koalas were being treated for burns that the crisis has been an ecological disaster.
"We know that our native flora and fauna have been very badly damaged," he said.
Meanwhile, knitters from the UK have responded to a call to create thousands of protective pouches and blankets for injured wildlife.
The UK Crafters United Group has made over a tonne of items which are being dispatched to Australia.
Donations to the volunteer-run group have come in from as far afield as the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, France and Germany.
The Worldwide Fund (WWF) has warned the government of 13 animals whose habitats have been either destroyed or severely damaged.
They include three critically endangered species: the southern corroboree frog, the regent honeyeater bird and the western ground parrot.