Australian farmer buries 400 sheep after ‘apocalyptic’ blaze destroys land

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Farmers on Australia’s Kangaroo Island are counting their losses after extreme and rapid bushfires reduced most of the precious nature reserve to charred mass.

Fire crews back burn areas of bushland at Salt Ash, in the NSW Hunter region, on Sunday, August 19, 2018. An emergency warning was sent to residents around Rookes Road, Lemon Tree Passage Road and Brownes Road in Salt Ash. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman) NO ARCHIVING

The tourist hot-spot has been likened to Noah’s Arch for its unique ecology, but there are fears it may never recover after a trio of ‘apocalyptic’ blazes wiped out tens of thousands of livestock, kangaroos and koalas.

Local farmer Rick Morris endured the gruelling task of burying 400 sheep after bushfires brought the ‘wrath of mother nature’ to his home. He said: ‘The fire (swept) from the south side to the north side of the island and took no prisoners between… I’m amazed there were not more people killed.’

28 people have died and over one billion animals have perished in Australia’s worst fire season on record. The blazes on Kangaroo Island have been particularly shocking for their speed and extreme behaviour, with experts estimating half of the land  (more than 215,000 hectares) has been scorched.

Humane Society International Crisis Response Specialist, Kelly Donithan picks up an injured Koala who was sitting beside another dead koala on Kangaroo Island on January 15, 2020. - On an island famed as Australia's "Galapagos" for its unique and abundant wildlife, rescuers are racing to save rare animals in a bushfire-ravaged landscape. The charred forest floor on Kangaroo Island is littered with corpses of animals incinerated by the blazes that swept through two weeks ago. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / TO GO WITH: Australia fire environment climate animal, FOCUS by Holly ROBERTSON (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

The south-west destination, near Adelaide, is one of Australia’s most important wildlife sanctuaries and is renowned for its biodiversity. Now, the streets are lined with animal carcasses and blackened out trees that are still sizzling with ashes. The ecological disaster is so big the army have been drafted in to help battle the flames and dig trenches to bury the 43,000 sheep and cattle killed.

KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content) Dead kangaroos lay on the ground on January 17, 2020 in Kangaroo Island, Australia. Kangaroo Island is recovering in the aftermath of a series of bushfires which started on 4 January. The fires, some of which are still burning, claimed two lives and have burned more than 210,000 hectares of land so far. Tens of thousands of native animals have been killed or injured, hundreds of thousands of livestock have been killed and 65 homes have also been destroyed. (Photo by Bill Blair/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

Brigadier Damian Cantwell, the joint bushfire task force commander for South Australia state, said he foresaw a ‘long road ahead’ for Kangaroo Island. He said: ‘I’ve seen a level of destruction which is still surprising me now. ‘There’s a lot of farmers that are in distress, a lot of community members are struggling, some families have lost everything, and they’re struggling to find out where they can move forward from here. ‘There’s no end date assigned to this mission, and it’s very important that there’s no sense of anyone… thinking about when this is going to end.’

3,000 soldiers have been deployed to assist the bushfire-affected areas. Kangaroo Island’s agriculture industry is worth $150 million (£75 million), and farming is the island’s biggest employer. Volunteers have been searching the scorched land for surviving wildlife amid fears half the koalas have been wiped out.

KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: An aerial view of burnt trees, cars and buildings on January 17, 2020 in Kangaroo Island, Australia. Kangaroo Island is recovering in the aftermath of a series of bushfires which started on 4 January. The fires, some of which are still burning, claimed two lives and have burned more than 210,000 hectares of land so far. Tens of thousands of native animals have been killed or injured, hundreds of thousands of livestock have been killed and 65 homes have also been destroyed. (Photo by Bill Blair/Getty Images)
Kangaroo Island

Local agronomist Daniel Pledge said animals are likely to conceive at lower rates due to stress, causing lasting impacts from the fires. He said: ‘It’s a snowball effect that we can’t measure and we’re very concerned for our local economy, to be honest. ‘These effects could flow on for up to five years, for certain individuals. And that is a long time.’

An aerial photo taken on January 16, 2020 shows a fire damaged landscape on Kangaroo after bushfires ravaged the island off of the south coast of Australia. - Australia is reeling from bushfires that since September 2019 having claimed 28 lives, including two on Kangaroo Island, and razed 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land -- an area larger than South Korea or Portugal. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / TO GO WITH Australia-livestock-fire-environment,FOCUS by Holly ROBERTSON (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

There are fears farmers across the country have been pushed to the brink, having already been battered by a prolonged drought that has crippled water supplies in rural areas.

Metro UK

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