Important Koala Colonies Destroyed In NSW Fires
Wildlife advocates are concerned for the welfare of hundreds of koalas after fire ripped through vital habitat in northern NSW.
The Busbys Flat fire, which has destroyed more than a dozen homes since igniting on Friday night, has burnt through one of the most important koala colonies on the state's north coast, according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).
"Koalas were already suffering from the drought, and are now likely to have been significantly impacted by these fires," NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
"It will take years for Koalas to recover."
NEFA estimates that some 350-700 koalas inhabit the Braemar, Carwong and Royal Camp State Forests, all of which have been directly impacted by fire and smoke.
The volunteer forest conservation group has been protesting against logging in the area for several months in a bid to protect koala habitats, and is now calling on the NSW government to halt all current plans to log in the Braemar State Forest.
“The resident Koalas are likely to have been severely affected by the fire, and suitable browse will be in short supply for months to come, the last thing they need is for the Forestry Corporation to log their surviving feed trees," Pugh said.
"The danger is that if the Forestry Corporation blunders in there now it could be the death knell of this nationally significant Koala population."
Due to high levels of disease and deforestation, koalas numbers are falling rapidly across north-eastern Australia.
At the current rate of decline, some estimates have the species on track for extinction by 2050.
At midday on Thursday, there were 32 fires burning across NSW, 12 of which remain out-of-control.
Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow on Thursday morning confirmed a handful of people were still unaccounted for.
Across the Busbys Flat and Drake fires -- which have joined together in recent days and burned 115,000 hectares -- at least 21 homes have been destroyed. Fifteen were in the Rappville area while the remained were impacted by the Drake blaze.
Authorities believe the fire may have been deliberately lit, with NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliot labelling the potential arson as a "bastard act".