This Australian fire season is one that will not be forgotten. Raging fires have devastated the country, leaving scorched earth on an unimaginary scale. Burning over 37 million acres of bushland and forest, and leaving at least 1 billion animals dead or shelterless.
Now a symbol of the fires, Lewis the koala was one of these furry victims. The injured koala was spotted trying to escape the fires and was saved by the selfless act of a courageous woman who rushed to his rescue. Wrapping him in her shirt and rushing the fatally injured marsupial to a local animal hospital. Unfortunately, the medical staff was not able to save Lewis and he was pronounced dead a few days after his daring rescue.
Countless other cases have since emerged, in one account firefighters described the horror of watching kangaroos rushing out of the bush on fire, then drop dead on the road. A scene described as “something we’ve ever seen before”. Kangaroos are fast-moving animals and the fact that they could not manage to escape the flames testifies to the intensity and speed of the fires.
Bushfires are a part of life in Australia, but the scale of these fires is unprecedented. Every state has dealt with the fires this season with New South Wales and Queensland being the two most affected. Vast areas have been burning, while Australian cities have suffocated in smoke recording some of the highest negative air quality scores in the world. Australia’s environment is transforming according to scientists. Making it hotter and drier and more exposed to intense fire seasons.
While recent rains have made it possible for firefighters to contain most fires, in some areas the fires still burn. Australia will pull through but the scars will remain. In what used to be pristine wilderness teeming with life and ringing with birdsong there is now silence. The music of the forest is gone for now, but hopefully and with a little help, not for long.
New reforestation efforts are well on their way. Our planting partner nurseries have started growing local tree species indigenous to specific areas. Soil experts and botanists have been surveying ecosystems, deciding what to plant and where. All part of a large scale human effort dedicated to create the biggest impact and help the forests bounce back. We can all make a difference in the effort to reforest the land and we can all help bring the music of the forest right back.