Race to save animals on Australia's fire-ravaged 'Galapagos'

Photo: AFP

On an island famed as Australia's "Galapagos" for its unique and abundant wildlife, rescuers are racing to save rare animals in a bushfire-ravaged landscape.

The charred forest floor on Kangaroo Island is littered with corpses of animals incinerated by the blazes that swept through two weeks ago.

Unprecedented fires across swathes of southern and eastern Australia over the past five months have killed an estimated billion animals.

With forests and coastal areas roughly the size of Portugal burnt through, environmentalists fear the fires will drive some species to extinction.

On Kangaroo Island - home to unique koalas, the critically endangered mouse-like dunnart and many threatened plants - concerns are particularly acute.

Amid the stench of rotting animal flesh, rescuers are combing the island's Flinders Chase National Park looking for injured, lost and starving animals.

"When we found this area we never thought anything could have survived, but we have pulled survivors out of there every day," Kelly Donithan, a Humane Society International crisis response specialist, told AFP while on patrol this week.

But with huge parts of the animals' habitats destroyed, the chances of many surviving are fading by the day.

"Every day that goes by, the animals get weaker and weaker and their organs are becoming more susceptible to irreparable damage."

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