How our bushlands and wildlife are lost

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Sometimes by sheer stupidity ….

These shocking pictures show the devastating results of stupidity and carelessness when a fire, lit by a thoughtless landowner north of the city, in strong winds and the very dry conditions of early November, spread uncontrollably to a number of other properties in every direction. Among them was an 82 hectare nature refuge which burned for more than 48 hours resulting in almost total incineration of vegetation and an incalculable toll on wildlife.

The custodian of the refuge reports that following the fire there have been no sightings of small mammals (antechinus, bandicoots, bettongs etc), apart from the traumatised melomys (pictured) which, for want of other shelter, has taken refuge in the battery cavity of a quad bike. A couple of pademelons are known to have survived, one with evidence of burns, and a brushtail possum with damaged fur was captured on a motion-sensitive camera, in a creek gully which mercifully contained water. A few wallabies, including one pretty-faced, and a couple of grey kangaroos have been seen hopping through the ash.

There has been no sighting of the cassowary known to frequent the refuge – it may have been able to escape, but in thick smoke and with barbed wire fences littering the landscape there is no certainty. Most of the trees burned to their tops, destroying new blossom, so any gliders surviving the fire would have lost their food source. The refuge owner has been making wonderful efforts to provide alternative food for survivors (all gratefully eaten) and thankfully, good rain has fallen recently. In time this will aid recovery and regeneration but our woefully slack attitudes towards private burn-offs, on top of all the other human causes of bush incineration, come at a terrible and heart-breaking cost.

…. and sometimes by deliberate design

The National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ) recently visited 4 of the 5 National Parks being grazed by cattle and were appalled at what they found. The Association’s Paul Donatiu said that parts of Moorrinya and Forest Den National Parks* have been grazed by cattle down to bare earth, leaving absolutely nothing for the native wildlife.

Paul estimated that grazing directly threatens the survival of at least 20 rare animals and plants occurring in these Parks. “A massive 83% of Queensland is grazed by livestock.  That some graziers want access to the meagre 4.8% that is National Park is beyond the pale.  National Parks are not cow paddocks – they are the last hope for the survival of our unique wildlife.”

The fact that some National Parks were grazing properties previously does not justify the reintroduction of grazing. These Parks were not created from highly degraded land but from largely intact areas of bushland on properties which, for different reasons, had not been cleared – while for decades so much of the State was extensively cleared, and wildlife lost. Where degraded areas were found in the new National Parks, QPWS Rangers, conservation groups and volunteer organizations worked tirelessly to restore and rehabilitate them. As Paul says,  “Cattle are now spreading weeds, trampling the habitat of native animals, and destroying waterways. Twenty years of effort is being lost”

*These National Parks are both located off the Torrens Creek-Aramac road in north-west/central western Queensland. They are a few hundred kilometres south of White Mountains NP and roughly ENE of Lakes Buchanan and Galilee.

(Information above condensed and adapted from NPAQ media release 11/11/13. Photos by Paul Donatiu. For better viewing click on any image in this post to enlarge)

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