Hundreds of koalas are feared to have died in a fire in northern New South Wales, Australia, which has ravaged their natural habitat for days. The Australian Associated Press reports that the fire was caused by a lightning strike near Port Macquarie, Australia, and has burned more than 2,000 hectares, including an important koala breeding ground. Port Macquarie Koala hospital president Sue Ashton told the AP that the feared loss was a tragedy. “The beauty of this particular population is that it’s so genetically diverse that it’s of national significance,” she said, adding that koalas can sometimes survive a fire if the flames aren’t too intense. “What happens to a koala in a fire is that they climb up to the top of the tree and they curl up into a little ball. If the fire goes through quickly and just singes their fur, they are fine and the fur will grow back,” Ashton said. But if the fire continues to burn up the tree, she said “they’ll perish.” Ashton said the hospital’s rescuers would be unable to search for survivors until Thursday or Friday.
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