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Report: 113 species require urgent help after Australia bushfires

An aerial view of a bushfire near Bairnsdale in Victoria's East Gippsland region, Australia, on Dec. 31, 2019. Photo by State Government of Victoria/EPA-EFE
An aerial view of a bushfire near Bairnsdale in Victoria's East Gippsland region, Australia, on Dec. 31, 2019. Photo by State Government of Victoria/EPA-EFE

Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The Australian government has identified more than 100 animal species that will require urgent help due to the devastating bushfires that have ravaged the country.

On Tuesday, Australia's Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment released a provisional list of 113 animal species as having "the highest priority for management intervention" as most had lost at least 30 percent of their habitat with many having lost "substantially more."

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"Some species were considered threatened before the fires, and the fires have now likely increased their risk of extinction," a summary of the report read. "Many other fire-affected animal species were considered secure and not threatened before the fires, but have no lost much of their habitat and may be imperiled."

The 113 animals were identified by the government's Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel based on the devastation to their habitat, their status prior to the fires and their vulnerability to fires due to their physical, behavioral and ecological traits, the report said.

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The panel identified 22 spiny crayfish, 20 reptiles, 19 mammals, 17 frogs, 17 freshwater fish species, 13 birds and five invertebrates as needing the greatest intervention.

"Some of these species, like the Kangaroo Island dunnart, Pugh's frog and Blue Mountains water skink, are at imminent risk of extinction because most of their range has been burnt," the report read. "They were already highly threatened, and they are susceptible to fires and its aftereffects."

The smoky mouse, koala and giant burrowing frog are other species that have had substantial portions of their habitat adversely affected, the researchers said.

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The researchers said that they are not aware of any extinctions that were caused by the ongoing fires and there have been "some encouraging sights" of threatened animals in fire-affected locations, it is unsafe for them to enter many areas and make more detailed assessments.

Plant species were not included in the report but an assessment is underway but more time is required due to the large number of species being assessed, the report said.

However, despite a recent respite due to rain from the intensity of the fires experienced in the past few months, the fires still burn and other animal species may become priorities.

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"This assessment will need to be updated as data for new fires become available," the report read.

Over the 2019-2020 fire season, bushfires of southeastern Australia have destroyed millions of acres of land and killed more than 30 people and a reported 1 billion animals.

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