Over 1 billion animals feared dead in Australian wildfires.

(USAToday): The death toll for animals in Australia continues to go up.

The World Wildlife Fund in Australia estimates that as many as 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires that have scorched Australia.

“The fires have been devastating for Australia’s wildlife and wild places, as massive areas of native bushland, forests and parks have been scorched,” Stuart Blanch, an environmental scientist with the World Wildlife Fund in Australia, told USA TODAY. Many forests will take many decades to recover, he said.

The fires, which have been blazing since September, have killed 26 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and scorched an area twice the size of the state of Maryland. They have been fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, and exacerbated by climate change.

The new number of animals killed was calculated using methodology that estimates the impacts of land clearing on Australian wildlife and extrapolates upon the science of Chris Dickman from the University of Sydney.

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