Hundreds of koalas feared dead in wildfires on Australia's east coast

Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital president Sue Ashton said she hopes wildlife carers will be allowed to begin their search of the fire zone for survivors on Thursday.

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The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday in a forest in New South Wales state 190 miles north of Sydney and has since burnt 4,900 acres.

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Ms Ashton said two-thirds of that area is koala habitat.

Koalas climb high into trees during wildfires and can survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

Ms Ashton said the koala colony is particularly healthy and genetically diverse. Koalas prefer coastal forests, which are being cleared for suburban expansion.

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