Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced in the six months of Australian brushfires in 2019-20, reports the World Wildlife Fund in an interim study, causing experts to call for climate policies that prevent future disaster and restore biodiversity.


The total number of creatures affected includes: 143 million mammals, nearly 2.5 billion reptiles, 180 birds and 51 million frogs that were impacted by the fires that burned 46 million acres of Australia.

“This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman in the Tuesday report.

Though the animal death count is unverified, Dr. Chris Dickman, who co-led the research, said the chances animals evaded the flames are “not great” due to lack of food and shelter.

He also blamed the calamity on a lack of climate-sensitive policies: “How quickly can we decarbonize? How quickly can we stop our manic land clearing?” he said.

In January WWF reported nearly 1.3 billion animals died in the 2019-20 brushfires, so this reflects a near 300% increase.

The report was compiled by ten scientists from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt University and BirdLife Australia—and the full report will likely be released in August.

Crucial Quote

“Following such a heavy toll on Australia’s wildlife, strengthening this law has never been more important. WWF will continue to advocate for policies that benefit both people and nature, restore what has been lost and ensure we build back a more resilient Australia,” said O’Gorman.

Key Background

The Australian brush fires that lasted from September 2019 to March 2020 destroyed over 5,900 buildings and killed 34 people. The brush fires caused $4.4 billion in economic damage, reports the Guardian, and released about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to NBC News.

Further Reading

New WWF report: 3 billion animals impacted by Australia’s bushfire crisis (WWF)

Economic impact of Australia’s bushfires set to exceed $4.4bn cost of Black Saturday (Guardian)

Australia wildfires unleash millions of tons of carbon dioxide (NBC News)