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Originally published January 9, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Page modified January 10, 2014 at 7:26 PM

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Bats drop dead from trees: Australia sizzles under record heat

The heat wave in Australia has taken a toll on wildlife, with bats dropping from trees and kangaroos collapsing.


The Associated Press

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CANBERRA, Australia — Bats are dropping from trees, kangaroos are collapsing in the Outback and gardens are turning brown.

While much of North America freezes under record low temperatures, the Southern Hemisphere is experiencing the opposite extreme as heat records are being set in Australia after the hottest year ever.

Weather forecasters in Australia said some parts of the sparsely populated Pilbara region along the rugged northwest coast were approaching 122 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday.

The record high of 123.3 F was set in 1960 in Oodnadatta, South Australia state.

Outback resident Gian Tate, 60, spends much of the day soaking in a small wading pool at home near Emu Creek in the Pilbara region, an area off the electric grid.

The thermometer outside her home hit 122 F on Wednesday, she said.

Tate and her husband rely on two electric fans to cope with the heat and rarely turn on the small air conditioner in their bedroom because of the high cost of fuel to run their generator.

“We’ve just got to live with it; there’s nothing you can do,” she said.

Brazil is also sizzling, with the heat index reaching 120 Fahrenheit.

Since Dec. 27, records have been set at 34 locations across Australia — some by large margins — where temperature data has been collected for at least 40 years mostly in Queensland and New South Wales states.

The heat wave in Australia has taken a toll on wildlife.

In Winton, famous for being one of the hottest spots in Queensland and where Australia’s unofficial anthem, “Waltzing Matilda,” was penned, a large number of parrots, kangaroos and emus have recently been found dead, said Tom Upton, chief executive of Winton Shire Council.

At least 50,000 bats had been killed by the heat in the state’s southeast, said Louise Saunders, president of the Queensland animal-welfare group Bat Conservation and Rescue.

Heat-stressed bats — including the black flying foxes, little red flying foxes and the endangered gray-headed flying foxes — cling to trees and urinate on themselves in a bid to reduce their body temperatures, she said.

“As they succumb, they just fall in heaps at the base of trees,” Saunders said.

“You can have 250 or more ... all dying at the base of trees.”

“It’s an enormous animal-welfare concern,” she added.



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