Nearly 3 billion animals, including mammals, reptiles and birds, were either killed or displaced during Australia's devastating bushfire season of 2019 and 2020, a new study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Tuesday, revealing for the first time the scale of the impact on the country's wildlife.
According to WWF Australia, the new figures are three times the earlier estimate of 1.2 billion released in January.
Almost 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs have perished in the bushfire, the WWF said in an interim report believed to be world first research and titled Australia's 2019-2020 Bushfires: The Wildlife Toll.
Ten scientists from the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt University, and BirdLife Australia contributed to majority of the work.
The project is led by the University of Sydney researchers Lily Van Eeden and Chris Dickman.
While results are still being finalised, the latest figure of nearly three billion animals impacted is not likely to change, WWF Australia said in a statement.
"The interim findings are shocking. It's hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals. This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history," said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman.
"When you think about nearly three billion native animals being in the path of the fires it is absolutely huge, it's a difficult number to comprehend," Dickman said.