You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

Bushfire crisis: Aus may list Koalas as 'endangered', announces $76 mn emergency fund for trauma-hit


Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

The Australian government on Monday said it might declare Koalas as an "endangered" species after the population of the cuddly animal suffered an "extraordinary hit" in the unprecedented devastating bushfires, which destroyed 30 per cent of their habitat across the country.

The government also announced a 76-million Australian dollar fund for emergency mental health services for the communities hit by the crisis since September last year.

The raging Australian bushfires, one of the worst in its history, has killed at least 26 people, burned over 10 million hectares of land, destroyed over 2,000 homes and pushed many species towards extinction.

Over 1.25 billion animals are believed to be dead in the wake of bushfires and experts believe that hundreds of billions of insects may have been wiped out, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

The government has established a 50-million Australian dollar emergency fund to address the devastating loss of wildlife.

Announcing the funding commitment, Minister Sussan Ley said Australia's koala population has taken an "extraordinary hit" in the ongoing bushfires and could be listed as "endangered".

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee will need to assess whether koalas have moved from a 'vulnerable' listing to being 'endangered' in some parts of the country, she said.

Koala populations across the country are not all impacted by the fires. Koalas are listed as vulnerable in northern New South Wales (NSW) and south-east Queensland, and the fires have likely put them under more pressure there, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The bushfires this summer season has destroyed over 10 million hectares of land across the country, while over 8.4 million hectares have been destroyed in NSW alone.

With 30 per cent of their habitat already been destroyed in the devastating bushfires, koalas -- the herbivorous marsupial animal native to Australia -- have become a big focus for the Australian government.

The ongoing blaze is also believed to have killed approximately half of the Koala population in the Kangaroo Island, described as Australia's Galapagos Islands.

"We know that our native flora and fauna have been very badly damaged. It will be some time before we know what that means for their numbers (and) koalas will be a big area of focus for us," Minister Ley said.

"It may be see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered," she said.

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg the bushfire crisis is an "ecological disaster" that is "still unfolding".

Pointing to the widespread trauma caused by the devastating blaze, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a 76-million Australian dollars emergency fund for mental health services to the bushfire-affected communities.

"These bushfires have been unprecedented in their scale, coverage and duration. They have also taken a traumatic emotional toll on our people. We need to ensure the trauma and mental health needs of our people are supported in a way like we never have before," Morrison said.

The government will spend 10.5 million Australian dollars on providing those affected with 10 free counselling sessions and 3.2 million Australian dollars will go towards deploying bushfire mental health response coordinators. Medicare rebates will also be available for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions, according to ABC.

Online telehealth services will also be expanded to provide treatment sessions for people in remote areas, while 16 million Australian dollars will go to specialist support for emergency services personnel, targeting the more severe needs they might have, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Mon, January 13 2020. 15:10 IST