By: Tim Studebaker

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – In addition to the human, property, and forestland toll, there's no question, the wildfires burning in Australia are also taking a devastating toll on that continent's animal population.

Roger Williams Park Zoo Director of Conservation Programs Lou Perrotti says, "Some of the estimates that I'm seeing coming out from my colleagues, they're saying billions of animals are being affected.  Right now, there's two species that could be lost forever to extinction."

The fires are drastically changing the Australian ecosystem.

Perrotti says, "Things like koalas, we could see now go on the endangered species list … not to mention all the reptiles, the invertebrates, all the other species that are vital to making that ecosystem run."

Many other animals are injured and in need of care.  Australian zoos are doing what they can, and Perrotti says zoos around the world can also help out.

Perrotti says, "We can certainly deploy veterinary staff to help triage some of these animals that are affected and still alive or burned."

He says if you want to help, there are websites where you can give.

Perrotti says, "It's best to send the money in-country and let them buy the stuff they need there, rather than trying to gather supplies, pay the shipping, get it there, and it might not get there in time."

Meanwhile, he expects rescue efforts to go on for quite some time.

Perrotti says, "Unfortunately, a lot of these animals are going to have to be held in rehabilitation centers, zoos, until habitat can be assessed … There's not going to be a lot of 'wild' left if this keeps raging on as its raging on."

There may not be much relief in sight.  As the southern hemisphere summer continues, experts say January and February are the peak of Australia's fire season.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020