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‘Entire species are being wiped out’: Ecologists say half a billion animals may have been killed by Australia wildfires

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“The fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

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News Corp Australia reported Wednesday that “there are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.”

“Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September,” according to News Corp. “That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.”

The horrifying figures come as images and videos of animals suffering severe burns and dehydration continue to circulate on social media.

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”

Koalas in particular have been devastated by the fires, Graham noted, because they “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”

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As Reuters reported Tuesday, “Australia’s bushland is home to a range of indigenous fauna, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas. Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.”

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Australia’s coal-touting Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced growing scrutiny for refusing to take sufficient action to confront the wildfires and the climate crisis that is driving them. Since September, the fires have burned over 10 million acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed at least 17 people—including 9 since Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the government of New South Wales (NSW) declared a state of emergency set to take effect Friday morning as the wildfires are expected to intensify over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of fire in the landscape that we will not contain,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. “We need to make sure that people are not in the path of these fires.”

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WATCH: Native American protesters ‘reclaimed the road’ to Donald Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore

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Police in camouflage fatigues and riot gear faced off against protesters in South Dakota on Friday evening.

"More than 100 protesters gathered on a highway leading to Mount Rushmore on Friday ahead of President Donald Trump’s speech at the monument," Indian Country Today reports. "Native women in ribbon skirts created a line across the highway, behind them members of NDN Collective, a nonprofit Native advocacy organization, parked white vans across the road."

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‘Trump surrenders to the virus’: White House ripped for new ‘learn to live with it’ message on COVID-19

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President Donald Trump's administration was harshly criticized on Friday after a new report from NBC News.

"After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it," reported Carol Lee, Kristen Welker and Monica Alba.

"Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were hitting new records in multiple states," NBC News reported.

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Will Michael Cohen be sent back to prison after being photographed at fancy NYC restaurant?

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Former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is currently furloughed from his prison sentence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was reportedly photographed at a fancy restaurant in Manhattan.

"Michael Cohen could soon be back to chowing down in a prison cafeteria," the NY Post reported Friday. "The recently sprung jailbird was caught by The Post dining out on Manhattan’s Upper East Side — and the meal may cost him his freedom, legal experts said Friday."

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