How you can help – not harm – wild animals recovering from bushfires



Building one of these watering pods can help thirsty wildlife, but it must be checked for safety and hygiene, and refilled regularly.
Arid Recovery

Marissa Parrott, University of Melbourne; Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University, and Euan Ritchie, Deakin University

Since July last year, bushfires have burned more than 7.7 million hectares of southeast Australia, putting many threatened species at increased risk of extinction.

Now that fires have been extinguished in some areas, surviving wildlife face other challenges, such as a lack of food, clean water and shelter, and more exposure to invasive predators.




Read more:
These plants and animals are now flourishing as life creeps back after bushfires


Australians have helped raise millions of dollars to support Australia’s imperilled wildlife, such as to set up triage centres and evacuate threatened species like eastern bristlebirds and Macquarie perch.

But beyond the vital role of providing financial support, here are a few simple things individuals can do – and avoid – to help our native wildlife recover.

Giving koala water from a drink bottle can kill them.
Sunrise on Seven/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Animals need fresh water, but not from a bottle

Photos of well-meaning people offering water from bottles to animals, especially thirsty koalas, often go viral online. But this is not a safe way to help koalas.

Animals must be allowed to drink water themselves, rather than us pouring water into their mouths. Animals, such as koalas, can’t drink quickly and poured water can fill their lungs, leading to potentially fatal aspiration pneumonia.

A koala at a bushfire wildlife triage centre. You can give koalas water to lap themselves from a dish, rather than pouring water into their mouths.
Zoos Victoria, Author provided

Still, providing safe, fresh drinking water is one crucial and practical way we can help them as summer grinds on.

This is particularly important since recent storms have washed ash, sediment and chemicals from burnt infrastructure into waterways, contaminating many catchments.

Water should be stationed at ground level, in a shaded location safe from predators, and in trees for birds and tree-dwelling species like possums, gliders and koalas. Check out DIY guides for building drinking fountains, or “watering pods”, for wildlife.

Sticks and rocks should be placed in the water to allow small species, such as reptiles, to climb out if they fall in. Water must be checked and changed regularly to ensure hygiene and avoid the spread of disease. And pets must be kept away from these locations (especially cats).

Watering pod animals.
Arid Recovery

What to do if you spot injured wildlife by the road

Authorities are searching the fire grounds for injured animals, and the public is reminded to avoid these areas until they’re confirmed as safe to enter.

But if you happen upon an injured survivor, what should you do?

First of all, call government agencies or trained wildlife rescuers, who can assist any injured wildlife.

Many animals may be in pain and frightened and some, including kangaroos, koalas and wombats, are potentially dangerous if approached. In urgent cases, such as when an animal is in obvious distress or has clear injuries, some animals can be carefully caught and wrapped in a towel, then placed in a well-ventilated, dark and secure box for quiet transport to wildlife veterinary hospitals for care.

Sadly, many animals are hit by cars during fires when they’re disoriented and panicked, and so it’s important to slow down in such areas.

You can also check animals found by roads for injuries and surviving young in pouches, and call authorities to assist. But always be careful of traffic when attending to animals on roadsides, and help other drivers be aware of you by putting hazard lights on and wearing bright clothes.

Don’t feed native wildlife, especially not peanut butter mixes

With so much vegetation burned away, supplementary feeding has gained attention following fires in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

But feeding wildlife without expert advice and legal approval can do more harm than good.

Feeding inappropriate foods like processed foods, over-feeding, providing unhygienic foods or food stations, and attracting predators to food stations, can all be fatal for native wildlife.




Read more:
Fire almost wiped out rare species in the Australian Alps. Feral horses are finishing the job


Even some foods suggested online, such as bait balls (peanut butter mixes), can cause gastrointestinal issues for wildlife, potentially killing them. Similar issues can arise if wildlife are given some types of hay, vegetables, seeds, and fruits.

Supplementary feeding isn’t advised unless habitat and sources of food have been completely destroyed, and is only appropriate as a short-term emergency intervention until natural resources recover.

But leave it up to the experts and government agencies, which provide nutritionally suitable, specially developed and monitored food in extreme cases.

Somewhere to run and hide

In some cases, fire may mean native animals are more prone to predators killing and eating them. And, depending on the habitat, it may take months or even years for plants and animals’ homes to recover sufficiently to provide safety once again.

However, new approaches – such as building artificial shelters out of fencing wire and shade cloth – may help to buy species time, keeping small mammals, reptiles and other potential prey safe from hungry mouths. This could occur both on private and public land.

Artificial refuges to provide wildlife with shelter and protection from predators after fire.
Tim Doherty (Deakin University)

Show wildlife the money

Caring for wildlife after fires, whether they’re injured or have lost their homes, is a marathon, not a sprint. And given the scale of these fires, our wild neighbours need our increased support.

Often, the most helpful thing people can do is raise and donate funds to organisations, including Zoos Victoria and the Ecological Society of Australia.




Read more:
To save these threatened seahorses, we built them 5-star underwater hotels


Some wildife species, such as bristlebirds, corroboree frogs, and mountain pygmy-possums, are being pushed to the brink of extinction and may need long-term captive breeding and release programs, or investment in active management of wild populations (such as the newly constructed feral predator-free area for Kangaroo Island dunnarts).

We can all help to make a difference and protect our remarkable and unique wildlife that so desperately needs our help.The Conversation

Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne; Dale Nimmo, Associate professor/ARC DECRA fellow, Charles Sturt University, and Euan Ritchie, Associate Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Yes, the Australian bush is recovering from bushfires – but it may never be the same


Grant Williamson, University of Tasmania; Gabi Mocatta, University of Tasmania; Rebecca Harris, University of Tasmania, and Tomas Remenyi, University of Tasmania

As bushfires in New South Wales are finally contained, attention is turning to nature’s recovery. Green shoots are sprouting and animals are returning. But we must accept that in some cases, the bush may never return to its former state.

We’ve all read the devastating figures of destruction this fire season. More than 11 million hectares of land burned across the country over a period of about six months. There is some evidence more than one billion animals perished.

We can take some heart in the regenerative power of the Australian bush.
However, when we read of “recovery” in the media, we feel we must clarify what that might actually look like.

While Australia’s environment has evolved to adapt to fire, our research shows we can no longer assume it will recover completely.




Read more:
Yes, native plants can flourish after bushfire. But there’s only so much hardship they can take


A fiery future

We are scientists and social science researchers who work in transdisciplinary climate change projects, liaising with park rangers, farmers, policymakers, emergency services and local government.

Our work involves scoping future challenges in land management and developing a range of plausible future climate scenarios for south-east Australia.

Our experience told us something like this catastrophic climatic event was possible, but as researchers we weren’t prepared to see such an inferno this summer.

Although fires are natural in Australia, they’re now occurring at an unprecedented frequency and intensity in areas that, historically, did not burn. This new regime does not allow the effective recovery of natural systems to their pre-fire state.

Alpine ash to ashes

Fires in alpine ash forests (Eucalyptus delegatensis) are a good example of this.

Along with some eucalyptus trees, Australian flowering grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) are pyrophytic plants – which means they are adapted to survive in fire-prone habitats.
Natalie Maguire / Flickr, CC BY-SA

Unlike many eucalypt species which can re-sprout after fire, this species’ only means of recovery is through germination via a seed bank in the canopy, and rapid germination and growth of seedlings after fire.

Multiple fires in quick succession kill seedlings before they reach maturity, disrupting the tree’s reproductive cycle and leading to local extinction of the species in the landscape.

Alpine ash forests have endured repeated fires in recent years. In 2013, a blaze in Victoria burnt more than 31,000 hectares of the Alpine National Park.




Read more:
Ash to ashes – what could the 2013 fires mean for the future of our forests?


Vast areas have been burnt again in this season’s fires in the same places. Research reveals climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of fires in the Australian Alps.

This ecosystem will not recover. It will instead transition into a new, different ecosystem, and many species which evolved to live in the original habitat, such as the alpine ash, will no longer be supported. They will be replaced by other vegetation types, such as other eucalyptus woodland, shrubland or grassland.

No more refuge

To further illustrate this point, take the Tasmanian pencil pine Athrotaxis cupressoides.

This slow-growing conifer native to Tasmania can live for up to 1,000 years. They are found in Tasmania’s highlands and sub-alpine regions – historically a Tolkien-esque landscape of moss and emerald green cushion plants, studded with thousands of tiny mountain lakes, called tarns.

But large fires across Tasmania’s pencil pine habitat in recent years, including those in 2016, reduced hundreds of isolated pencil pine communities to blackened skeletons. The stands of trees that remain are struggling to survive in a drying and warming climate.

Pencil pines, widely found in Tasmania, are not fire-adapted and are killed by bushfires.
David Bowman

All this is occurring in areas that historically did not experience fire, which allowed a suite of ancient, fire-sensitive species to persist.

As climate change worsens, the pencil pine will be restricted to even smaller areas. Higher temperatures and increased fuel loads increase the likelihood of destruction by fire. Areas where pencil pines have historically been protected will diminish in number and size.

Irreplaceable loss

In these cases and many others, animal species relying on these trees and their ecosystems are profoundly affected.

Well before the latest fires, Australia had an abysmal record on vertebrate extinctions. This summer’s fires have brought some animal species, including the Kangaroo Island dunnart, closer to extinction.




Read more:
Australia’s bushfires could drive more than 700 animal species to extinction. Check the numbers for yourself


Future fire seasons will not be normal events, or even some kind of stable “new normal”, to which humans and nature will readily adapt. We’re seeing a trajectory of change in which our climate will shift faster than most living things can tolerate.

The Australian environment evolved with fire and in past conditions, could recover from fire. However climate change has altered the rules irrevocably.

We can no longer rest assured that nature will bounce back, and that knowledge should be a wake-up call for the world.The Conversation

Grant Williamson, Research Fellow in Environmental Science, University of Tasmania; Gabi Mocatta, Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication, University of Tasmania; Rebecca Harris, Climate Research Fellow, University of Tasmania, and Tomas Remenyi, Climate Research Fellow, Climate Futures Programme, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

More sightings of an endangered species don’t always mean it’s recovering



File 20171013 31408 peh6jb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Leadbeater’s possum sightings are up – but that doesn’t mean the critically endangered species is recovering.
David Lindenmeyer, Author provided

David Lindenmayer, Australian National University

If more sightings of an endangered species are recorded, does that mean its numbers are increasing? Australia’s native forest logging industry is arguing yes.

On the basis of an increase in sightings of Leadbeater’s possums, advocates for Victorian native forest logging industry has proposed to downgrade the possum’s conservation status from critically endangered (thus facilitating ongoing logging in and around potential habitat in Victoria’s Central Highlands).

But while this sounds reasonable, increased sightings aren’t always a reliable measure of endangered species’ viability. Often, an increase in sightings can be attributed to two things: either more people are trying to spot the animal in question; or new work that has used different parameters to previous studies.


Read more: Victoria must stop clearfelling to save Leadbeater’s possum


Why more sightings may not mean species recovery

One of the ultimate achievements in successful conservation is to downlist a threatened species – for example from critically endangered to endangered, or from endangered to vulnerable. But this requires high-quality, long-term survey data that shows substantial recovery, as well as proof that the key threats to a species’ persistence have been truly mitigated.

An example of a failure to do due diligence was the woylie in Western Australia, (also known as the brush-tailed bettong). It was downlisted in 1996 but then within 3 years suffered an enormous and still not well understood population crash (from which it has still not recovered). Its conservation status was uplisted in 2008.

There have been more records of Leadbeater’s possum in the last few years, but this growth is most likely a function of a large increase in the amount of effort invested in trying to find them.

In areas zoned for timber harvesting, locations with a confirmed Leadbeater’s possum sighting are excluded from logging. This has motivated large numbers of people who are concerned about the plight of the possum to devote many hours to finding animals.

The detection of more animals with greater searching is a well-known phenomenon in ecology and other disciplines. Last year, for example, sightings of wild tiger populations rose by 22% – but further investigation found that the increase was most likely caused by changes in methodology and greater effort in surveying.


Read more: Australia’s species need an independent champion


In fisheries this relationship is termed catch per unit effort. For example, even with rapidly declining numbers in a fishery, the number of fish caught can stay the same or even go up when more efficient and targeted techniques are adopted. Sadly, this intensified effort can often cause fish stocks to collapse.

The real evidence on Leadbeater’s possum

As stated earlier, the first critical piece of evidence required to justify downlisting is robust evidence of long-term improvement in population size. So what does the evidence tell us about Leadbeater’s possum?

For more than 34 years, the Australian National University has monitored Leadbeater’s possum including at more than 160 permanent sites since 1997. This large-scale, long-term data set shows that the possum is in significant decline. Over the past 19 years, the number of survey sites where the possum was detected has dropped by almost two-thirds.

The second critical requirement for delisting is evidence that the key processes threatening the species have been mitigated.

One of the principal threats facing Leadbeater’s possum is the rapid ongoing decline in large old trees which are the sole form of natural nesting sites for the species.

As part of ecological surveys in the wet forests of Victoria, which have been running since 1983, the Australian National University has been collecting information on hollow-bearing trees. The most recent analysis of this large and long-term data set suggests that if current declines continue, by 2040, populations of large old trees may be less than 10% of what they were in 1997.

Another key threatening processes which has not been addressed is fire. Victoria’s wet ash forests are extremely fire prone, in part because forests that regenerate after logging are significantly more likely to burn at elevated severity.

The significant risks facing the mountain ash forests in which Leadbeater’s possum lives has resulted in the forest itself being classified as critically endangered.

No grounds for reducing the conservation status

Efforts to downlist Leadbeater’s possum are misguided at best. The greater number of records in recent years is most likely a reflection of greater survey effort. In contrast, robust long-term monitoring data clearly shows a significant decline in population.

Most importantly, the key processes causing the decline of Leadbeater’s possum (and other threatened species in the same area, like the greater glider) have not been mitigated; indeed they are intensifying (such as the increasing fire burden with increasing area of logged forest).

There is little room to gamble with these species. Leadbeater’s possum and the greater glider currently do not breed in captivity, so expensive fallback options like captive breeding and reintroduction are not viable possibilities if wild populations crash.

The loss of these animals from ill-informed downlisting would add to Australia’s already appalling record on species loss. Approximately 10% of our mammal fauna has gone extinct – the worst rate in the world, and 30 times worse than places of equivalent size, such as the United States.

The ConversationMore formally protected areas, and not downlisting their conservation status, is the most scientifically robust option for the conservation of this iconic animal.

David Lindenmayer, Professor, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grand Cayman Blue Iguana: Recovering Well


The link below is to an article that reports on the recovery of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. It’s a good news story.

For more visit:
http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/?11299/Grand-Cayman-Blue-Iguana-takes-step-back-from-extinction

Article: USA – Washington


Mount St Helens Still Recovering

The following link is to an article reporting on the recovery of Mount St Helens thirty years after the volcanic explosion that destroyed the surrounding area.

For more visit:
http://www.livescience.com/6450-mount-st-helens-recovering-30-years.html