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  1. ITV Report

Australia's wildfires turn New Zealand sky bright orange

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Lucy Watson

The Australian wildfires have turned the sky orange more than 1,600 miles away in New Zealand.

In Auckland, eerie pictures show a sky lit up bright orange as smoke from Australia's bushfires passes over.

It comes as a 24th person was killed as the bushfires continue to devastate the country.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed since the fires began in September in what is being called the worst fire season on record.

Sunday saw milder temperatures and brought hope of a respite for firefighters tackling the ferocious flames in three Australian states.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his leadership and his government's record on climate change.

The skies in New Zealand have turned bright orange because of Australia's wildfires. Credit: @GalaGeorgette

Mr Morrison has faced widespread criticism for taking a family holiday at the start of the crisis, his sometimes distracted approach as it has escalated and his slowness in deploying resources.

But he told a news conference it was not the time for blame.

As dawn broke over a blackened landscape on Sunday, a picture emerged of disaster of unprecedented scale.

The Rural Fire Service says 150 fires are still active, 64 of them uncontrolled.

Australia's bushfires. Credit: PA Graphics

The damage to the country’s unique wildlife is also considerable, as Australia's answer to the Galapagos Islands has been left devastated.

Wildfires over recent days have undone decades of careful conservation work on Kangaroo Island and have threatened to wipe out some of the island’s unique fauna altogether.

The island is a refuge for some of the country’s most endangered creatures.

But the fires have burned through one-third of the island, killing a father and son and leaving behind a scorched wasteland.

Experts working on the island say the fires have killed thousands of koalas and kangaroos, and also have raised questions about whether any members of a mouse-like marsupial species that carries its young in a pouch have survived.

Dead kangaroos and sheep after wildfires hit Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation/PA

Similarly, it remains unclear how many from a unique flock of glossy black-cockatoos got away from the flames and whether they have a future on an island where much of their habitat has gone up in smoke.

Once prevalent on the South Australia mainland, the birds retreated to the island after humans destroyed much of their traditional habitat.

Careful conservation work over the past 25 years has seen the glossy black-cockatoo population increase from 150, but those gains have been wiped out in the space of a week.

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“Caring for all these animals is quite amazing,” said Sam Mitchell, co-owner of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.

“However, we are seeing a lot that are too far gone.

“We are seeing kangaroos and koalas with their hands burned off — they stand no chance.

"It’s been quite emotional.”

Mr Mitchell and his wife, Dana, are currently caring for about 18 burned koalas, and they have had to euthanise many more.

Located off the coast of South Australia state, Kangaroo Island is about 50% larger than Rhode Island and home to 4,500 people and what was a thriving ecotourism industry.

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