Scorched earth: Australia’s wildlife continues to suffer

Blackheath.The shops in Blackheath, a town in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, are crowded. Everyone wants to shop before Christmas, the mood is calm: Corona situation has calmed down in the region, and the onset of the humid summer heralds relaxation in the fire season, which lasts until March.

A year ago the situation was dire. “December 20 was the worst day for Blackheath,” remembers Cathy Butler, who has lived in the city for twelve years. Several major fires united and threatened a community of 4,000 lives. “The smoke was so dense that you couldn’t breathe without a mask,” says an ecologist who works as a ranger in the Blue Mountains National Park.

Take care of wildlife species

The fires of the century have turned large parts of the country into a terrifying sight filled with black tree skeletons. Fires flooded nearly 70 percent of the national park, and more than 100 million animals were killed, lost habitat or starved thereafter. It is estimated that more than three billion animals have died across Australia. Kathy Butler still shudders at the thought of the fires. She said they were “very terrified.” He remembers how “charred leaves rained”.

At least 33 people were killed and over 17 million hectares of land burned across Australia. Trevor Evans runs a small zoo – The Secret Creek Sanctuary – in Lithgow, about 30 minutes from Blackheath. He managed to save all of his animals and transport them to a larger Sydney Zoo in a short time. But many species of wildlife may be extinct. He hadn’t seen a guitar tail like this since the fires. He found countless sacks and sacks slithering, charred, hanging from fences, and half-burning snakes peering out of holes in the ground. “In the months following the fires, we kept finding dead birds that were dying after a long period of smoke,” he says. It will take at least a century for wildlife to recover. Specialized animals that need a specific food and habitat are especially vulnerable – the symbolic koalas, for example.

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The people of Blackheath have not forgotten what happened. Ranger Butler said the solidarity was tremendous. While some got rid of everything that was flammable, a neighbor cooked for the entire Butler Street. “The disaster has brought us closer to each other,” she said enthusiastically. “In the weeks that followed, we had a festival – everyone cried and embraced the firefighters who saved our village.”

As wildlife continues to starve, the Australian jungle is showing its “amazing skills,” says Butler. Native plants such as eucalyptus, acacia, and worsta grow back in nearly every corner. Grass trees are in full bloom, and other shrubs are already growing again. The seeds, which had endured the heat of fire, took root to break free from their capsule.

Drones in use in the future

Animal rights activist Trevor Evans is still afraid of the future. “All the small animals – the kangaroo bunny, the wallaby, and the nose bags – are missing. These little jungle engineers are warning that they keep the bushes small. Once they get hot again and the fires start again, this could increase the risk of another huge fire.”

In the future, Australia plans to control forest fires in record time with the help of drones, satellite technology and artificial intelligence. The plan, called Mission Fire Shield, was developed by the Minderoo Foundation in conjunction with the Australian Minister of Science and Technology, Karen Andrews. Among other things, artificial intelligence and machine learning should be used to locate fires. The drones and autonomous vehicles will then help put it down quickly. (With dpa)

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© Mannheimer Morgen, Wednesday 23 December 2020

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