The world has been watching on in horror as bushfires have ravaged Australia. Across the country, at least 27 people have been killed by the devastating fires, which have been even more disastrous for wildlife. In New South Wales, the government is trying to help surviving animals by dropping thousands of kilos of carrots and sweet potatoes from helicopters.
As the name ‘Operation Rock Wallaby’ suggests, the mission is primarily targeting rock wallabies, which normally feed off the grasses, shrubs and leaves that have been torched by the fires. The species was already classed as endangered prior to the fires, making the success of Operation Rock Wallaby all the more important.
NSW Environment Minister Matthew Kean said the food drops would be used state-wide as a short-term strategy to help endangered animals.
According to The Sun, he said: “The wallabies typically survive the fire itself, but are then left stranded with limited natural food as the fire takes out the vegetation around their rocky habitat.
“The wallabies were already under stress from the ongoing drought, making survival challenging for the wallabies without assistance.”
Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) nature campaigner, Jess Abrahams, said the food drops were a ‘sensible emergency response’ but said long-term action to tackle climate change was of the utmost importance.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, he said: “I can’t underline how urgent it is, and we need to take real action on climate change nationally and globally if we want to protect our beautiful wildlife.
“This may well push them [rock wallabies] over the brink which is a terrible thought, and shows how vulnerable our wildlife are to changes in the natural environment.”
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, said the amount of animals now killed by the fires is in excess of one billion – ‘without any doubt at all’.
Referring to his earlier prediction that 480 million animals had been killed, he told the Huffington Post: “The original figure – the 480 million – was based on mammals, birds and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now – in New South Wales alone.
“If 800 million sounds a lot, it’s not all the animals in the firing line.”
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