A joint statement by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Birdlife Australia, Humane Society International, the Wilderness Society and WWF.
National conservation organisations have come together to support a nationally coordinated wildlife and ecosystem recovery effort in the midst of the unprecedented bushfires devastating Australia.
These fires will have profound implications for conservation in Australia, and the response will need to be herculean.
National conservation organisations have outlined an immediate response plan to help address the devastating impacts these bushfires are having on wildlife and heritage. Organisations are encouraging the federal government to drive coordination and collaboration across sectors and ensure scientific experts, communities, Indigenous land managers and NGOs can get into fire affected regions and implement urgent recovery work, while supporting wildlife rescue efforts.
This is a national ecological crisis, with devastating and unprecedented fires driven by climate change occurring across much of Australia.
Our organisations harbour serious concerns for a range of flora and fauna that have been catastrophically impacted by these fires, including koala populations across the south-east, the Kangaroo Island dunnart, glossy black cockatoo, long-footed potoroo, western ground parrot, blue mountains water skink, regent honeyeater, eastern bristlebird, southern corroboree frog and the brush-tailed rock wallaby.
We are concerned these species are only the tip of the iceberg and note that conservative scientific estimates are that more than a billion animals have been wiped out through the fires so far.
Huge proportions of globally significant areas like the Gondwana Rainforest and Blue Mountains World Heritage Areas along with the Australian Alps and Western Australia’s Stirling Ranges have suffered catastrophic burns.
A full assessment of ecological impacts across the fire zone must be undertaken and our organisations are committed to supporting this work and the subsequent recovery efforts.
A coordinated federal and state response to this ecological disaster is needed, which will be most efficiently led by the Australian Government. There is a significant role the Australian Government can play in mobilising experts and resources to respond to this crisis. The resources will need to match the scale of the catastrophe and be sustained for the long-term recovery.
The devastating impacts on wildlife also underscore the need for more effective longer-term protections of critical habitat under national law and ensuring the full implementation of wildlife recovery plans and threat abatement plans for all threatened species with significantly increased funding.
Crises of this scale are likely to occur again and threaten ecosystem collapse unless government tackles the main driver of catastrophic fire seasons and other extreme weather events: dangerous climate change.
Australia is not doing enough to reduce climate pollution and, as was emphasised as recently as the United Nations climate conference in Madrid, government must lift its ambition if Australia is to do its fair share to limit climate damage.
Our checklist for Government:
Get experts on-ground as soon as possible
Support emergency species recovery interventions
Provide urgent financial support to wildlife rescue and recovery
Resource TSSC to enable urgent assessment of bushfire impacted species and communities
Rapidly evaluate and address impacts on heritage values and Ramsar wetlands