Two years after Australia was devastated by record bushfires, Kangaroo Island’s endangered wildlife is finally starting to bounce back thanks to a seemingly safe haven.
The 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires were the worst in Kangaroo Island’s history, destroying nearly half of its vegetation and threatening the survival of species such as the mouse Dunart.
Just two years after the devastating fires that first struck an island off the coast of South Australia, a survey has shown that wildlife populations are slowly recovering following the construction of a refuge project.
An initial 13.6-hectare area was sealed off in a six-week tornado to protect the wildlife from predators, namely feral cats, directly after the devastating fires removed their protective habitat cover.
The area, which is jointly managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservation (AWC) and Kangaroo Island Land Wildlife (KI LfW), now covers about 370 hectares for endangered species, including 8.8 km of predator-proof fences. Is.
It was officially launched in February as the Western River Refuge.
AWC CEO Tim Allard said, “We had boots on the ground shortly after the fire, working closely with KI LFW and local landholders, to establish water and shelter in the burned areas, and assess the loss of wildlife.” to do.”
“Together, we were able to take AWC’s experience and KI LfW knowledge of local ecology to create an early feral predator disclosure to help protect the many species that might otherwise have been destroyed.”
All the hard work is paying off after a week-long AWC-KI LfW collaborative survey at 10 sites within the West River Refuge and the adjacent West River Wilderness Conservation Area.
Species diversity was found to nearly double compared to inside and outside the fence, and 25 percent more animals were caught inside the wild cat exclusion zone.
Native animals, such as the Kangaroo Island Dunart, Western Pygmy Ossum, Bush Rat and Southern Brown Bandicoot, whose populations were significantly affected by the fire, have been recorded in the predator-free zone, along with four species of native frogs.
Dunart was of greatest concern, with the fire reducing its population by about 500 to 90 percent by February 2020.
“I think two years later this project is going better than we imagined,” Pat Hodgens, AWC-KI LfW field ecologist, said of Western River Refuge.