Book delves into animal conservation efforts during 2019/20 bushfires

Author John Pickrell with koala Ember.

Author John Pickrell with koala Ember.

Though floods might be the talk of the town at the moment, Australia's recent devastating bushfires are never far from mind.

The 2019/20 bushfire season ravaged the country, and the Green Wattle Greek blaze, in particular, came close to home, scorching the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, as well as parts of Wollondilly.

Caught up in that devastation were countless already vulnerable Australian animals, including koalas, regent honeyeaters, bare-nosed wombats and more.

For his new book Flames of Extinction: The race to save Australia's threatened wildlife, journalist and author John Pickrell journeyed through the firegrounds to find stories about the creatures that escaped the flames, the wildlife workers who rescued them, and the conservationists, land managers, Aboriginal rangers, ecologists and firefighters on the frontline of the climate catastrophe.

Pickrell dedicates a chapter to the Green Wattle Creek blaze in the book, released a year on from the horrifying summer of fire.

"The sheer scale of both the Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek fires, which together blazed across most of the Greater Blue Mountains region, was just staggering," Pickrell told the Advertiser.

"Along with associated fires, by the time they were finally out in February 2020, about 1.3 million hectares - or about 80 per cent of the Greater Blue Mountain World Heritage Area - had been burned, which is an area bigger than Vanuatu or nearly the size of the nation of East Timor.

"These were some of the biggest forest fires the world had seen in recent history."

Pickrell said he wanted to highlight the hard work people across the country were doing to ensure the conservation of Australia's wildlife in his book.

"I've tried hard in the book to tell a lot of positive stories about the incredible work people are doing to save species, help ecosystems recover and make sure plants and animals are in a much better place to survive mega-fires of the kind we saw over Black Summer when they next return," he said.

"I'd like to think this gives people a sense of hope that we can still save and protect Australia's spectacular natural environments if we act now and it's not too late."

Pickrell said it was important, in light of our current wet weather, not to forget the horror of the Black Summer.

He said "climate-driven megafires" would return if we failed to learn from 2019/20.

"we need to be as well prepared as we can be in advance if we want to prevent more Australian species slipping into extinction," Pickrell said.

"Of course the most important thing people can do is support and vote for politicians who want to take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

"Other than that they can volunteer with organisations that are restoring habitat such as Green Australia, or help financially support NGOs such as Bush Heritage and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, which are buying up great tracts of important habitat for wildlife."

John Pickrell is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of Flying Dinosaurs and Weird Dinosaurs, and a former editor of Australian Geographic magazine.

Flames of Extinction is released in March 2021.


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