Australians are suffering sweltering heat waves that are wreaking havoc on people and wildlife.
It was reported that yesterday, Thursday, Adelaide experienced warmest weather on record for an Australian city at 46.6ºC (115.9ºF) while temperatures in the town of Port Augusta soared to 49.1ºC (120.4ºF), making it the hottest spot in the country.
While people get snowed in from blizzards across North America, Australians are taking shelter from the heat of the Southern Hemisphere summer. But some of the nation’s iconic animals have nowhere to hide, and are dying from exposure to the extreme conditions.
About 90 feral horses were found dead in the Ltyentye Apurte Community of the Australian Outback this week near a dried-up waterhole, having perished of thirst. The Central Land Council, which represents Aboriginal peoples in this region, decided to euthanize more than 50 additional horses because they were suffering and unlikely to recover.
The CLC expects that more horses, camels, donkeys, and other animals are likely to die due to the heat, and the organization is bracing for severe problems as global temperatures rise.
“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them,” said CLC director David Ross in a statement.
Though the current temperatures are breaking records, it’s not the first heatwave this summer to deal serious damage to Australian wildlife. From November 26 to 27, temperatures exceeded 42ºC (108ºF) in northern Australia. Scientists estimate this spike killed a staggering 23,000 spectacled flying foxes—about a third of the nation’s entire population of this large bat species.
Meanwhile, about 10,000 black flying foxes, a close relative of the spectacled bat, also died from the heat.
The death of these bats from heat stress is “a canary in the coal mine for climate change,” ecologist Justin Welbergen said.
“It is clear from the present data that these [heat] events are having a very serious impact on the species and it’s clear from climate change projections that this is set to escalate in the future.
Aquatic species are also vulnerable to the extreme conditions. Droughts and alleged water mismanagement resulted in the deaths of up to a million fish in the Murray-Darling River basin in southeast Australia this month.