In a bush fire season that started unimaginably early, the devastation has been tremendous. BBC News provides a good summary of how these fires have unfolded so far. The losses are staggering.
Scientists from the University of Sydney estimated that 480 million animals have been killed in New South Wales alone since September. These animals were killed directly by the fire or later due to loss of food and habitat. Thirty percent of koala habitat is gone. And the fires are likely to keep burning for months more.
Many people know about koalas and kangaroos, but countless other species are suffering, including lesser-known animals like the dunnart, long-nosed potoroo, and the antechinus.
Even before these fires, Australia’s track record for preserving animal species was grim. Australian Geographic’s comprehensive study found that 100 species of animals and plants have become extinct in Australia since European settlers arrived in 1788, the worst record on any continent over the same time period.
Wrapping my mind around all this loss can be depressing, immobilizing. But I am inspired by the Australians around me. They aren’t giving up on their wildlife. What they do best as individuals is band together for the sake of the greater good and the community. And, like the volunteer firefighters here, they never ever stop.
Many, many efforts to help animals have been launched across the country. Below are just a few in my local area that I’ve been aware of or involved in.
Most inspiring and rewarding to me has been Water Our Wildlife Canberra, a local effort encouraging people to just start putting out water for the wildlife around us—whether it’s a small backyard basin of water for the birds and bees or a wading pool for kangaroos in the neighborhood nature reserve—every little bit makes a difference. Interest and participation are both growing by leaps and bounds daily. There is even talk of turning it into a national program.
The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has put the call out for sewers, knitters, and crocheters to make wraps, nests, joey pouches. and blankets for injured bats, birds, orphaned marsupials, and other wildlife.