Images of scorched kangaroos and smoky koalas were ubiquitous during the devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20.

As millions of hectares of habitat went up in flames, an estimated 3 billion animals were caught in the fire zone. Countless dedicated volunteers rushed to their aid.

Amid the chaos and destruction, it was impossible to know how many were rescued, nurtured back to health and returned to the wild.

Catherine Herbert and colleagues analysed marsupial rescue, rehabilitation and release statistics from two of the worst-affected regions: New South Wales and Kangaroo Island.

Despite an estimated 46.8 million marsupials in the NSW fire zone, only 889 marsupial rescues were reported. Just 618 marsupial rescues were reported on Kangaroo Island. And unfortunately, despite the best efforts of volunteers, many of them died anyway.

But as our authors write, we can use this information to improve our response to future disasters: “Knowledge of the likely chance of recovery from different injuries can be used to refine treatment for each species. This will allow volunteers and veterinarians to prioritise rehabilitation efforts and minimise animal suffering.”

And speaking of the Black Summer fires, it’s hard to forget the long, terrible drought which contributed to that tragedy, by creating a tinder-dry landscape ready to erupt in flames. Well, new research shows this continent has seen even worse droughts over the past 1,000 years – some lasting up to 20 years. Add in the effects of climate change, and the results suggest future droughts in Australia will be far worse than we imagined.

Clare Peddie

Deputy Environment + Energy Editor

Hundreds of animals were rescued after the Black Summer bushfires – but how many actually survived?

Catherine Herbert, University of Sydney; Chris Dickman, University of Sydney; Holly Cope, University of Sydney; Rachael Gray, University of Sydney

Marsupial rescue, rehabilitation and release statistics from New South Wales and Kangaroo Island during Black Summer fires reveal poor survival rates, despite the courageous efforts of volunteers.

A 20-year ‘mega-drought’ in Australia? Research suggests it’s happened before – and we should expect it again

Georgina Falster, Australian National University; Nerilie Abram, Australian National University; Nicky Wright, University of Sydney

Natural variability in Australian rainfall can produce “mega-droughts” lasting 20 years or more. Add in human-caused climate change, and future droughts may be far worse than imagined.

There are new flu vaccines on offer for 2024. Should I get one? What do I need to know?

Allen Cheng, Monash University

It may be safest to get your flu shot sooner rather than later.

Peter Dutton says Labor is pushing Australia ‘over an energy cliff’ as he talks up nuclear

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Peter Dutton claims the government can’t credibly meet its 2050 net zero emissions target and pushes Nuclear as the solution.

It’s getting even harder to find full-time work. So more people are taking second part-time jobs

Mark Wooden, The University of Melbourne

Rising costs and the change in the nature of work has led to more people holding more than one job.

Why cocaine is considered performance-enhancing for athletes, and why it matters when the athlete took it

Nial Wheate, University of Sydney; Shoohb Alassadi, University of Sydney

The AFL has had several cocaine-centred controversies recently, but why is the drug considered performance enhancing?

Who invented the flat white? Italian sugar farmers from regional Queensland likely played a big role

Garritt C. Van Dyk, University of Newcastle

Today, the flat white is enjoyed by people the world over. But there’s good reason to think there’s a very local history behind this special brew.

Why do international students choose to study in Australia?

Ha Nguyen, Victoria University; Peter Hurley, Victoria University; Sam Hoang, Victoria University

Research finds international students value the opportunity to come and live in Australia over the academic prestige of our universities.

From where we work to what we spend, the ABS knows more about us than ever before: here’s what’s changing

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Far from being “rampant” inflation was tame in the first two months of this year. We know this because of big changes in the way the bureau prepares its data.

Australian ‘bush glass’ bears the fingerprints of a cosmic collision with an iron meteorite

Aaron J. Cavosie, Curtin University

A zap with a laser in the lab confirmed the extraterrestrial origins of enigmatic lumps of glass found in the Northern Territory.

Reports of the death of psychoanalysis are exaggerated, as Adam Phillips’ elegant, elusive writing shows

Nick Haslam, The University of Melbourne

Writer and psychotherapist Adam Phillips is often hailed as one of the world’s great essayists. His new book – exploring the topic of giving up, among other things – is both erudite and slippery.

Politics + Society

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    Juliana S. Oliveira, University of Sydney; Anne Tiedemann, University of Sydney; Cathie Sherrington, University of Sydney; Leanne Hassett, University of Sydney

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Business + Economy


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