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Cobargo and the wildfires

Life on land

“This story was written in the maelstrom of Australia’s most ferocious fires in late 2019 and early 2020. Fires in which we spent about two months in three Australian States. It was a living hell”. Peter Hylands

May 21, 2023

We join Sara Tilling and Gary Henderson, Sara talks about grief and loss and rebuilding the future from the caravan that is to be their temporary home.

Cobargo after the fires

New South Wales

The fires burned the landscapes at catastrophic scale and energy.

Cobargo and fire damage to the bush

Money

The Commonwealth Government of Australia (Canberra) has pledged $50 million to assist wildlife in the fire-grounds across this vast continent. The states most impacted at this time are New South Wales (Cobargo), Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The $50 million in funding will be split between an expert advisory panel and community groups and Koalas will be a focus for restoration efforts, with as much as 30per cent of Koala habitat destroyed.

We shall see what happens.

Gary rescues a Wombat

Scale

In New South Wales, where some 8.5 million hectares have been destroyed and whose current government’s attitudes to wildlife conservation are nothing less than egregious appear to be planning on businesses as usual with no changes to lax wildlife laws or the level of commercial or other permits being issued.

“DPIE will be monitoring fire and harvesting activity within the commercial management zones and will be engaging with commercial harvesters and animal dealers that may operate within the affected zones. Our goal is to ensure that Kangaroo populations remain ecologically sustainable.”

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

“Like us, all living creatures don't want to die and will fight to survive. Sometimes despite all odds we hang in there, not yet ready to leave for many reasons. Maybe just because you find someone that is prepared to sit with you, love you and give it their all to help you. To give you the strength to fight” Sara Tilling

What they have said is precisely the opposite to what they are actually doing, which is devastating Kangaroo populations in the state.

Victoria

The fires burned the landscapes at catastrophic scale and energy.

Echidna after the fire

Incompetence

In Victoria, the Victorian Government, although details and how these are to be enforced are vague, has suspended its relatively new and doomed Kangaroo Pet Food Industry. The commercial wildlife industry in Victoria is doomed because much of the populations of species being exploited are now gone because of the large numbers of animals killed in the last few years.  

As far as I can tell the Victorian Government has no plans to put a stop to the vast scale culling of wildlife it claims to be a nuisance or overabundant. In Victoria in the ten-year period 2009-2018 inclusive a total of 32,147 of these ATCW permits (not commercial) were issued for Australian species covering 1,513,605 animals across 82 native species including for 26,507 Wombats, in addition Wombats are unprotected in much of the state and killing them does not require a permit. This Government describes Koalas as overabundant (nonsense).

Wombat after the fire

Abuse

While not formally announced, the Victorian Government (its Ministers) have also flagged their intention to proceed with this year's Duck shooting season despite the devastating impact on waterbird populations in Australia from heat events, long term and severe drought and now the horrific fires.South Australia has already announced that despite the devastating fires it will proceed with its Duck shooting season.

Persistent abuse

An area not that much smaller than Greece, has been destroyed in Australia over the last few weeks and because the fire-grounds are so vast, the wildlife that does survive is in immediate danger of starvation and dehydration, all food has gone, and water sources, if they remain, are contaminated. The Australian Veterinary Association is desperately calling on the Victorian Government to airdrop food into inaccessible, bushfire-affected land in Victoria to save starving wildlife.

“Victorian Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said the Government was taking expert advice to get the best outcome for native wildlife and biodiversity. We're considering supplementary feeding for threatened species in targeted areas if and when it's appropriate and safe to do so," she said.

As President of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council at the time I have called on the government to stop all wildlife killing activities and to begin food drops with immediate effect. Towards the end of 2019 it looked tome, with all the disasters and potential disasters that we describe here, that the Victorian Government were ‘culling’ wildlife in state and national parks inVictoria.

Hidden abuse

The response I received beyond the usual spin was as follows: 

“If you require any more detailed information at this stage, we encourage you to submit your query through our Freedom of Information Process”. 

Best hidden?

Australia’s ABC report that:

“Animals Australia director Lyn White said some species in fire-affected areas were critically endangered such as the Mountain Pygmy-possum and Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby found in Gippsland. The charity offered $100,000 to the Victorian Government last week to help purchase food but said they have not received a response to the offer”.