humanitarian group describes 'apocalyptic' scenes of wildlife devastation on Kangaroo Island

Animal welfare charities have described what they say are apocalyptic scenes on fire-ravaged Kangaroo Island, in South Australia, where they have set up a base rescuing injured wildlife.

More than a third of 160km long Kangaroo Island has burned. The video and pictures released by the charity’s disaster response team shows a scorched landscape of scarred trees, ash-coloured earth and animal carcasses.

They also show vision of koalas and other animals being rescued, given water, carried to safety in washing baskets and cared for in a temporary veterinary hospital.

Evan Quartermain, the group’s Australian head of programs and manager of the Wildlife Land Trust, a network of 600 sanctuaries across the country, said the damage on the island was hard to describe.

“It is extremely emotional,” he said in a statement issued by the organisation. “In some places you can’t walk 10 metres without coming across another carcass.”

Erica Martin, the charity’s chief executive, said in a badly hit area that burned a week ago they found one live koala among thousands of dead koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and birds. “The scenes were nothing short of apocalyptic.”

The severity and extent of the fires, concentrated in the island’s biodiversity-rich western region, have prompted ecologists to express grave fears for the future of some of Kangaroo Island’s unique and endangered wildlife.

They are particularly concerned for the Kangaroo Island dunnart, a mouse-like marsupial endemic to the island, and the glossy black-cockatoo, a unique subspecies that has been the focus of two decades of community conservation work.

Heidi Groffen, an ecologist with the local Land for Wildlife organisation, last week told Guardian Australia the island was a refuge, or “little Noah’s Ark”, for endangered species.

The fires started with lightning strikes in the Flinders Chase national park. They continue to burn. Two people have been killed, and the farming and tourism industries badly affected.