"These fires that we are experiencing at the moment are unprecedented and the most fierce, ferocious, widespread fires that we have seen in our history," said Nick Boyle of the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Medical facilities began rescuing some of the country’s most iconic animals before things became so dire.
"Taronga Wildlife Hospital received a call from Science For Wildlife," said Libby Hall, a manager of the Taronga Wildlife Hospital. "They needed emergency housing for 12 koalas that were in the line fire in the Blue Mountains."
The hospital in Sydney was able to set up emergency housing for the koalas — including for a mom and her young joey — in less than a day. That was in October.
"We're in a position where we can provide temporary housing for these wild koalas until it’s safe for them to go back into the wild," said Frances Hulst, a Taronga Zoo veterinary officer.
But it is not as easy as it sounds. Blue Mountain Koalas are the most genetically diverse group of koala.
"What we really need to do is get a really good understanding of the science behind koala recovery and translocation of koalas and moving them from one place to another," Boyle said.
Beyond koalas, clouds of smoke are disorienting birds. Fast-moving fires are trapping kangaroos not fast enough to outrun them. And ash falling into rivers and oceans are even impacting those ecosystems.