Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires
© Rob Griffith/AP
Conservationists fear hundreds of koalas have perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on Australia’s east coast.
Hundreds of koalas are feared dead after wildfires ravaged Australia's east coast.

Some 2,000 hectares of land were burned through in the blaze, around two-thirds of which was koala habitat.

The fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday near Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

Sue Ashton, who runs Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, said there was little optimism about the consequences of the fire.

"If we look at a 50% survival rate, that's around 350 koalas and that's absolutely devastating," she said.

"We're hoping it's not as bad as that, but because of the intensity of the fire and the way koalas behave during fire, we're not holding out too much hope."

She said the search for survivors would begin on Thursday.

Ms Ashton added that the koala colony in the area was particularly healthy and genetically diverse.

Koalas are listed as "vulnerable" by Australia's environment industry and there could be as few as 43,000 left in the wild.

The marsupials are particularly susceptible to wildfires, dog attacks, collisions with vehicles and disease.

During a fire, they will climb high into trees and be able to survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

Koala rescuer Cheyne Flanagan told ABC News that because the fire was of "such high intensity", there were expected to be few survivors.

The state of New South Wales has suffered hundreds of fires in recent months as Australia has faced above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall.