Koalas are still being nursed back to health a year after the worst bushfires in Australia.
A veterinary facility that was set up after the month-long fire on Kangaroo Island still has 22 in its care.
Around 250 of the 650 marsupials rescued from the flames have now been released back into the wild.
Georgie Dolphin, British of Humane Society International, said: “This is a remarkable success rate given the terrible injuries the animals suffered from the fire.”
However, the charity warned that some animal populations would never recover – and the fires could easily recur on the same scale.
At the beginning of 2020, apocalyptic flames known as the Black Summer killed 26 people and billions of animals, destroying 3,000 homes and many wildlife habitats in the process.
More than half of the famous Kangaroo Island southwest of Adelaide has been flattened.
Charity spokesman Evan Quartermain said, “We may have lost species that haven’t even been described.
“We were still trying to get a proper understanding of these incredibly complex ecosystems and many researchers have made their life’s work disappear before their eyes.”
Nearly 50 endangered animal and plant species are believed to have affected at least 80 percent of their habitat by bush fires, he said.
Another 65 species were more than half their range in the fire zone.
“This is putting massive pressure on already declining populations and has brought iconic species like the koala and platypus closer to extinction,” continued Quartermain.
“We still don’t know all the effects, even 12 months after the bushfires. We do know, however, that billions of animals have died and some populations will never recover.”
One of these feared extinctions is the Kanginoo Island Assassin Spider, which has only been found in the island’s Western River Wilderness Protection Area.
The area was badly burned and the spider has not been seen since.
There are also serious concerns about dunnarts, glossy black cockatoos, and pygmy opossums that are specific to Kangaroo Island.
Although they have been discovered since the fires, it is not known whether their habitats can regenerate enough to secure their future in the wild.
But Mr. Quartermain said, “Scientists are finding some promising signs of life on Kangaroo Island, including a pygmy opossum that is believed to have been wiped out.
“We’ve definitely seen the same extent of fires again – although due to the amount burned during the Black Summer, a repeat of 2019-20 is not expected this year.
“Increasingly dry summers make the risk of bush fire even greater than before, and it won’t be long before many fuel loads are restored.
“To plan for this inevitability, HSI has invested in staff training, emergency field stations and substantial support for wildlife keepers.
“These investments will also help with other disasters like drought and floods.”