16 Nov AUSTRALIA WILDFIRE FUND
Australian Wildlife Crisis
Australia is losing wildlife at an unprecedented rate. 2019 saw long-term environmental issues culminate into unimaginable conditions. Severe drought, catastrophic wildfires and unprecedented heat waves have triggered the loss of entire ecological communities, and possibly entire species.
The current wildfires are the worst in Australian history, with over 10 million hectares (24 million acres) being burnt Australia wide, including 5 million hectares (12 million acres) incinerated in NSW alone. Reports include over 2,500 buildings having been destroyed and 24 people known to have perished with many more missing. The conditions have been exacerbated by a severe and long-existing drought and strong winds that have caused the fires to spread rapidly. Drought is causing starvation, disease and heat stress, while forcing animals to less protected areas and increasing predation. Wildlife fleeing fires, are at increased vulnerability to threats of unnatural predation and road strike. The fires have killed, injured and displaced some of Australia’s most unique animals, including koalas, kangaroos and platypus. Wildlife experts estimate that more than one billion animals have been killed so far due to wildfire, including up to 30 percent of the koala population living in New South Wales. This is particularly devastating for the country with the highest rate of mammalian extinctions on Earth.
Australia Wildfire Fund
Proudly Aussie Ark is working on the front line to protect what is left. The ‘Australian Wildfire Fund’ has been established to assist with on-the-ground action, specifically to:
• Assist current firefighting efforts through the New South Wales Rural Fire Service
• Support the local communities most affected
• Support wildlife rescue and recovery
• Implement long-term solutions to restore and repopulate unique ecosystems destroyed by the fires, increasing climate resilience and reducing the threat of future events of this severity
In The Field
Aussie Ark are in the field, assessing populations of Australian wildlife, relocating those in need, and providing veterinary care to those that are suffering. Below are some of the projects assisting our wildlife in need:
Experts report over 30% of Koalas in NSW have been decimated in fires. We can not bring them back. We can not save the Koalas we have already lost. But we can save what Koalas remain. We can provide them with a future.
Aussie Ark has been in the development stages well before the current Wildfire crisis due to their ongoing loss of habitat and decline in populations. The current emergency highlights the need for a long-term sanctuary for our most iconic species. Somewhere that includes critical Koala habitat, and long-term protection from the threats they face in the wild.
Koala Ark will provide sanctuary for up to 1500 individual Koalas. Aussie Ark has secured 5,750 hectares of wilderness including preferred Koala Habitat, in the spectacular Barrington Tops of New South Wales. Koala Ark will protect this habitat and manage it to benefit our remaining Koalas. Koala Ark will also be made available through the correct processes for injured and displaced Koalas to call home.
Brush-tail rock-wallaby (BTRW) populations that were already considered endangered pre-fires are facing massive and critical decline across NSW due to the current wildlife crisis. Size of the NSW priority sites for this species pre-wildfire have been completely incinerated, with another 5 being at imminent risk. What individuals are left are vulnerable to starvation with little to no food available, thirst due to drought, and increased risk of predation and road strike.
Aussie Ark has observed this first-hand in the remaining population in the NSW Barrington region, and is on the ground fighting for the survival of those that remain.
Weekly monitoring utilising cameras, and on the ground field officers, have been conducted along with supplementary food drops to support and monitor local populations.
Brush-tailed rock-wallabies (BTRW) are a species that Aussie Ark has worked with long before recent events, inclusive of an insurance breeding population on-site at Aussie Ark.
Aussie Ark is well prepared to provide homes for displaced and rescued Brush-tail rock-wallabies with a specialised and purpose built BTRW facility, and additional wild sanctuary where our remaining rock wallabies will be protected for the threats they are facing throughout their natural range
Hunter River turtles:
Australia’s river systems have been in long-term distress from drought, which has been exacerbated by recent wildfire and the need to utilise water for fire-fighting efforts. Our Australian freshwater turtles that rely entirely on the health of the river are at risk of completely disappearing.
Hunter River Turtles are found only in the Hunter River and mostly to a short stretch at Moonan Flat. Aussie Ark staff are on the ground assessing what is a catastrophic state with most of the river being dry and only small puddles of stagnant water remaining. Over 100 turtles have been relocated to deeper pools, with 19 being brought into care, due to malnourishment and the need for rehabilitation which Aussie Ark is providing.
Aussie Ark will build an insurance population for this species to ensure its long-term survival and release back to a healthy Hunter river once it is possible.
Considered one of the most unique species in the world, the platypus relies on the freshwater river system to provide its home, and food source. Again, due to the long-term decline of aquatic systems due to drought, the platypus habitat has collapsed with little to no remaining water in many rivers, no food availability, high bacteria levels in stagnant water, and severely impacted riverbanks. Recent catastrophic conditions have been exacerbated by the need to utilised remaining water for much needed fire-fighting efforts.
Platypus in the NSW Barrington region have been assessed by the Aussie Ark team and observed to be suffering with multiple individuals found dead, and many others malnourished.
Aussie Ark teams are committed to helping this species in the NSW Barrington area. Weekly searches for individuals in need of veterinary assistance and relocation to deeper pools acre being conducted.
Ways You Can Help At Home:
Leave water out for wildlife in dishes, trays and buckets. Ensure you put rocks/ sticks in the water so smaller animals can get out if they fall in. Try to put water in shade so it can stay as cool as possible.
Kangaroos and wallabies – the safest food is grass pellets (pony pellets, horse fattener pellets, macropod pellets). Please do NOT feed animal pellets that contain seeds. Pellets do break down in the rain, so put them under cover e.g. in hollowed out trees or under rock shelves or under fallen logs. Root vegetables including sweet potato and carrots. Corn is not great as it can cause mouth issues in the species. You can also give them dark green vegetables like kale and endive. Native foods (flowers, leaves, grasses) are best, but with the drought and fires they’re in short supply.
Possums – Possums thrive on a high vegetable diet, with not much fruit as sugars can make them aggressive and upset their gut. Fantastic foods for possums include sweet potato, corn, carrot, dark green leafy vegetables including kale and endive. They can have some fruits, but they need to be cut up into 1cm chunks. They prefer apple and do NOT feed citrus. Similar to the kangaroos and wallabies, native foods (flowers, leaves, grasses) are best, but with the drought and fires they’re in short supply.
Birds – please remember fruit and birdseed are dangerous for kangaroos and possums. Please don’t feed these anywhere where there may be other climbing or hopping wildlife (which is almost anywhere). Putting it high in a tree is still risky. Possums can reach it, and they can drop it on the ground where kangaroos will eat it. What birds need most desperately is water. Most birds can fly long distances to new places to find food, as long as they have water.