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An injured kangaroo with a joey in its pouch, limps through burnt bushland in Cobargo, Australia January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

More than 1 billion animals have been killed in bushfires in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to leading wildlife experts.

Bushfires have had a terrible impact on Australia. Lives have been lost, thousands of homes destroyed and vast areas of land incinerated. The disaster has also had catastrophic consequences for animals. Images of badly burned koalas, Australia’s famous furry marsupials, have come to define the severity of the fire emergency.

The University of Sydney has estimated that more than 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles, as well as “hundreds of billions” of insects have died in the fires. Experts have warned that “for some species we are looking at imminent extinction.”

They also fear that animals that have survived the fires by fleeing or seeking safety underground will return to areas that will not have the food, water or shelter to support them.

Saving the zoo animals

At zoos and wildlife reserves, staff risked their lives protecting the animals in their care.

As fires tore through the town of Mogo on the New South Wales south coast on New Year’s Eve, there were grave fears for the animals at the local zoo. Remarkably, they all survived, but the property is badly damaged.

Chad Staples, the head keeper, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about his decision to stay to fight the flames.

“We have a lot of damaged fences,” he said. “The good thing is that we saved every single animal, there is no injuries, there’s no sickness. We had to stay here and protect them. We knew that this was the best place that we, if we worked hard, could make this a safe place. But, yeah, of course, I think everyone, at [a] different point, was scared out of their wits.”

Farm animals perish

Tens of thousands of farm animals also have likely died in the bushfire disaster.

Farmers have been forced to euthanize injured stock. The losses could run into the millions of dollars.

Only when the fires clear will Australia be able to more accurately assess the full extent of the damage on livestock and wildlife.

Dozens of fires continue to burn across several Australian states.

A group of government workers protest for better salaries in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 6, 2019.

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s public sector workers on Friday rejected a government offer to nearly double salaries for the lowest paid employees because it was not enough to cushion them against soaring prices, their union said.

The southern African nation’s economy is experiencing its worst crisis in a decade while poor rains are seen worsening the food security situation at a time some 8 million people face hunger after a drought last year.

The top public workers’ union Apex Council said the government had offered to increase the salary for the lowest paid employee to 2,033 Zimbabwe dollars ($123.68) from 1,033 Zimbabwe dollars a month. There would also be a one-off allowance of 750 Zimbabwe dollars.

“As workers, we totally rejected the offer,” Apex Council deputy chairman Thomas Muzondo told Reuters, adding that the union would meet on Monday to decide on its next action.

Vincent Hungwe, head of the Civil Service Commission, which employs government workers could not be reached for comment.

Muzondo said public sector workers still insisted that the government should revert to the October 2018 salaries when the country was still under dollarisation. Then, the least paid worker received $475 a month.

Zimbabwe re-introduced a local currency last year in June, which sparked increases in prices of basic goods and services and inflation, which economists say reached 400% in November.

Salaries have lagged, angering workers, including most junior doctors at state hospitals, who have remained on strike since September.

Hopes that the economy would quickly recover under President Emmerson Mnangagwa have faded as the economy grapples with 18-hour daily power cuts, shortages of fuel, foreign currency and medicines in government hospitals. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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