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Report from Down Under: Carnage and Suffering under Fire

January 15, 2020

 

 

I am late in reporting on the journey to South Australia which was both exciting (a first visit to a remote location) and frustrating in the moment (white sharks were scarce in the Neptunes). More on this later. But nothing could have prepared me for what came next!!

Petrified tree roots in limestone frame the Southern ocean swell at the SW end of Kangaroo Island just a few weeks before fire destroyed the area.

 

 As planned we made our way out to Kangaroo Island on a short plane flight from Adelaide. The island was parched from weeks of crushing drought. Water was precious, livestock were under pressure being fed from silage collected in previous seasons and the islands residents were on high alert to the possibility of fire. My guide, Bill, a retired teacher working now as a nature guide and when needed a member of the volunteer fire department on the island walked me through the procedure if we came unexpectedly upon a raging bush fire in our travels. The last major fire had been in 2007 and had devastated the western third of the island, most of which is protected park land and home to koalas, wallabies and many, many other species of birds and mammals. No one wanted to have that history repeat itself and Bill shuddered when I asked him to assess the risks. The date was December 1st, 2019 and Kangaroo Island was bracing for its big seasonal tourist season over the Holidays and into the month of January. Next to agriculture, tourism is the major industry sustaining the island and the various resorts had staffed up in anticipation.

 

I had three beautiful days exploring the island enjoying the landscapes and fauna. But just a few weeks after my departure the worst was realized and fire broke out……

Here are some images from BEFORE the blazes erupted.

 Koala feeding on eucalyptus in Flinders Chase Park

 Pair of highly endangered Glossy Black Cockatoos

 Rainbow Lorikeet

 White bellied Sea Eagle in flight

Crested terns gather on a jetty in Kingcote

 

As of this writing almost ½ of the 1700 square miles of the island has been burned. Tens of thousands of animals and endangered birds have been lost along along with likely more than 100,000 domestic sheep many of which had to be euthanized after being ravaged by fire.

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 AFTER fire broke out on December 30 at the west end of the island all hell broke loose. It is estimated that 25000 Koalas alone have perished in the blaze and more suffer in the aftermath. Images from reporting in the past few days follow...just horrible.

Photo: Carol Cole, Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

 

Photo: Carol Cole, Los Angeles Times

 

Photo: Carol Cole, Los Angeles Times

 

This from the Los Angeles Times today reporting on the carnage on Kangaroo Island (January 14, 2020).

 “Across Australia, there is introspection on the topic of climate change — whether the country could have moved faster to acknowledge the causes of warming temperatures and better prepare for the effects. But at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park on Monday, the focus was on wildlife rescues.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.’ And it happened,” Mitchell said of the fires. “People want to blame someone, and my focus right now is on saving the animals. Maybe I’ll blame someone when I have time to think about it.”

 

Will report on the white shark portion of the trip in a separate post.

-JK

 

 

 

 

 

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