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Australian bushfires kill over a billion animals, scientist says

The estimated animal death toll from Australia’s devastating and widespread bushfires is now at over 1 billion according to scientist Chris Dickman.

Weeks ago, it was first thought that the estimate was half a billion. But according to Dickman — a professor at the University of Sydney — his previous estimate of 480 million animals have doubled the number. NBC reports that the prominent scientist updated the figure to over 800 million animals on Wednesday. The number is recorded in New South Wales alone. Dickman added that the national death toll likely exceeds 1 billion.

The new figure includes wildlife killed by flames along with those who indirectly died as a result of the fires. Starvation, habitat loss and dehydration are is listed as likely causes. The estimate covers mammals, reptiles and birds however, it does not include frogs, insects and other invertebrates.

In a statement to NBC, Dickman explained that the unlikely occurrence of Australia’s bushfires are an impact of climate change.

“What we’re seeing are the effects of climate change.”

Dickman also believes that as the impact of climate change continues to worsen, forest fires similar to Australia might be seen around the world. The record-breaking fires join the likes of that in the Amazon last year and in Indonesia.

“Sometimes, it’s said that Australia is the canary in the coal mine with the effects of climate change being seen here most severely and earliest … We’re probably looking at what climate change may look like for other parts of the world in the first stages in Australia at the moment.”