Vickii Lett has been a volunteer wildlife carer in New South Wales (NSW) for 32 years.
While she says her work can sometimes be heartbreaking, this year she has witnessed Australia’s wildlife being wiped out on an unprecedented scale by fires that continue to rage across the country.
“The scope of these fires is something we’ve never experienced before,” said Lett, whose work with the Australian wildlife rescue group, WIRES, often involves searching for survivors amid the ashes.
“It’s heartbreaking to see those injured animals. Many of them have to be destroyed, others, maybe you see the shell of a body but it’s basically just a shape in the ash.”
Since country-wide fires first flared up unseasonably early in September, hundreds of homes have been lost, more than five million hectares (12.4 million acres) of bush and farmland have been scorched, and at least 24 people have been killed.
Ecologists from the University of Sydney estimate almost half a billion mammals, birds and reptiles have died since the fires began.
As another heatwave sweeps across the country, the fires are showing no sign of abating and experts fear there may not be enough habitat or numbers left for some species to recover.