Koala in Australia

Australia's animals and the threat of bushfires

How to help animals during bushfire season, and the importance of preparation, recovery and rehabilitation


As we confront another fire season, we cannot forget last year’s catastrophic fires. We must remain vigilant; the animals are relying on us to help and protect them.

Despite the devastation following last year’s fires, there is still time for us to make the necessary changes to protect our wildlife. You can help by donating to support animal welfare initiatives, and by following the guide below for helping both wild animals and your companion animals during the Australia’s summer and bushfire seasons.

Animals lost in the ferocious fire season of 2019-20 

The devastating 2019/2020 Australian bushfires impacted almost three billion vulnerable wild animals [1], most of whom likely perished, and hundreds of thousands of farmed animals [2]. Concerningly, these estimates do not include other animals such as invertebrates, fish and turtles [3].

In total, 19 million hectares of land burned across Australia [4], the equivalent size of a number of European countries. Eastern Australia was particularly hardest hit with around 12.6 million hectares, containing primarily forest and woodland, burning [5].

The scorched land was prime wildlife habitat and remained charred and continued to smolder in the months that followed. The destruction of the fires is nothing short of catastrophic, as revealed by before and after satellite images [6].

The aftermath of the fires detrimentally impacted animals for months due to starvation, lack of shelter and predator attacks [7].  The impact continues due to extensive habitat loss [8], and the final effect will not be known for years to come [9].

It is predicted it will take many years for animal populations and habitats to recover [10]. With fears some are unlikely to recover, such as koalas [11], particularly with the threat of future bushfire seasons further subverting recovery.

Alarmingly, the forecast for the future indicates that this was not a singular event, but that bushfires will continue to escalate and increase in duration [12]. The time of preparation, recovery and rehabilitation is now.

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Bushfires, animals, and ineffectual environmental laws

Australia has always experienced bushfires, but the 2019-20 fires were unlike anything we had ever undergone – they were so ferocious that they created their own weather conditions and more fires [13]. This is due to a changing climate, which has caused increasing droughts and record temperatures, significantly exacerbating, and lengthening, the fire season [14].

Land clearing is often carried out to create pasture for farmed animals [15],  and is also contributes to climate change and bushfires [16]. Further, land clearing is also one of the greatest threats to wild animals [17].  

Concerningly, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 recently underwent a review and there is a threat that protections will be weakened in the name of development [18].

Since the Act coming into force, more than 7.6 million hectares of habitat have been destroyed [19], clear evidence of present inadequacies.

We need stronger laws and better enforcement to protect our suffering wildlife.


How FOUR PAWS helped animals during bushfire crises

As a global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS is committed to helping animals affected by crisis such as bushfires, and helping fellow advocates with the right expertise to reach as many animals as possible.

Through our work, we are committed to supporting the dedicated wildlife carers and animal rescue groups working on-the-ground to help animals in need.

  • Help purchase an animal trailer for Where Pigs Fly Farm Animal Sanctuary, who had to evacuate 120 rescued farm animals due to being in a severe fire risk area. The trailer will assist them to evacuate in similar situations in the future and upcoming fire danger.
  • Purchase much needed medical supplies and food for the team at North Queensland Wildlife Care.
  • Donate to Wildlife Rescue South Coast, WIRES, FAUNA South Australia and Wildlife Victoria, who are using these funds to pay for things like emergency medication, bandages, specialist wildlife food and to supply expert veterinary care to injured animals.
  • Purchase much needed medical supplies for the sanctuary at Dimmocks Wildlife Retreat after fire damaged their site.

As we approach the next bushfire season, FOUR PAWS will continue to provide support, funding and services to on-the-ground animal rescuers and care groups.

We are a leading international animal protection organisation and all donations will be delivered to animals who need it most.



[1] World Wide Fund for Nature Australia, Australia’s 2019-2020 Bushfires: The Wildlife Toll (Interim Report, 1 June 2020).
 [2] Alexander I. Filkov et al, ‘Impact of Australia's catastrophic 2019/20 bushfire season‌ on communities and environment.‌‌ Retrospective analysis and current trends’ (2020) 1 Journal of Safety Science and Resilience 44.
[3] World Wide Fund for Nature Australia (n 1).
[4] Filkov et al (n 2).
[5] Brendan A. Wintle, Sarah Legge and John C.Z. Woinarski, ‘After the megafires: What next for Australian wildlife? Trends in Ecology & Evolution’ (2020) 35(9) Trends in Ecology & Evolution 753.
[6] Jacinta Bowler ‘Satellite Images Before And After Australia's Bushfires Reveal a Devastating Contrast’, Science Alert, (Web Page, 1 September 2020) <https://www.sciencealert.com/satellite-images-compare-before-and-after-australia-s-horrific-bushfire-season>.
[7] Filkov et al (n 2).
[8] Wildlife and threatened species bushfire recovery research and resources (Web Page) <https://www.environment‍‍‌‌‌‌.‌gov‌‍‍‍‍.‌‌au‌‌/‌‍‍‍‍biodiversity/‌‌bushfire-recovery/research-and-resources>.
[9] Brendan A. Wintle (n 5).
[10] Filvok et al (n 2) or Wintle.
[11] Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales, https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2536/‌Koala%20‌populations‌‌‌%20and%20habitat%20in%20New%20South%20Wales%20-%20Report%203.pdf‌‌
[12] Climate Council, ‘The Facts About Bushfires and Climate Change’, Climate Council (Web Page, 13 November 2019) <https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/not-normal-climate-change-bushfire-web/>.
[13] Particle, ‘When bushfires create their own weather system’, Phys.org, https://phys.org/news/2020-01-bushfires-weather.html.
[14] ‘This is Not Normal’: Climate change and escalating bushfire risk, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/bushfire-briefing-paper_18-november.pdf.
[15] Living Planet Report WWF 2018 https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1187/‌files/original/‌LPR2018_‌Full_‌Report‌_‌Spreads.pdf; Australia State of the Environment Land 2016 https://soe.environment.gov.au/sites‌/‌default‌/‌files/soe2016-land-final-web.pdf?v=1492063205.
[16] Scientists' Declaration: Strong legislation needed to curb Australia's accelerating rate of land clearing, https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/scientists-declaration-strong-legislation-needed-curb-australias-accelerating-rate-land-clearing; A continent under stress: interactions, feedbacks and risks associated with impact of modified land cover on Australia’s climate, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01939.x.
[17] OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Australia 2019 Chapter 4.
[18] Environmental Defenders Office, https://www.edo.org.au/the-epbc-act-review-2020/.
[19] In depth: Australian Bushfires, https://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/bushfire-recovery/in-depth#gs.i2d4n4.
An Eastern grey kangaroo and her joey who survived the forest fires in Mallacoota. Australia, 2020.

preparing for the next bushfire

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