Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney, further diminishing Australia's iconic marsupial, while soaring temperatures have increased the fire danger Saturday in the country’s east. The mid-northern coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas, the AP reports, but wildfires have significantly reduced their population in recent months. Koalas are native to Australia and are one of the country's most beloved animals. "Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed," said Australia's environment minister, Sussan Ley. "We'll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made."
Images of koalas drinking water after being rescued from the wildfires have gone viral on social media. A video posted on Instagram showed a thirsty koala approaching a cyclist for water. "Best thing to happen to me on a ride ever," the cyclist wrote, per the Independent. Ley said, "I get mail from all around the world from people absolutely moved and amazed by our wildlife volunteer response and also by the habits of these curious creatures." More than 12 million acres has burned nationwide during the wildfire crisis, with nine people killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed. Fire danger in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory was upgraded to "severe" on Saturday, as high temperatures built up over the region. Sydney’s western suburbs reached 106 degrees F.
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