Bushfire Royal Commission: how to prevent wildlife going up in flames

By : Humane Society International October 30, 2020

Humane Society International (HSI) welcomes the wildlife rescue findings of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements report released today. The need for emergency response training for volunteer wildlife rescuers and for governments to work with the wildlife sector to develop emergency protocols and improve on-ground coordination were among priorities identified.

"Wildlife rescue is highly reliant on volunteers in Australia, and if we're going to continue turning to them in times of emergency there's an urgent need to provide emergency training and respect their role by including them in emergency response protocols,” said Humane Society International's Head of Programs Evan Quartermain.

HSI has first-hand experience with bushfire wildlife rescue having deployed a response team to Kangaroo Island across three months at the start of the year. We are also providing significant financial assistance to wildlife rescuers and carers across the country as they rehabilitate survivors from the Black Summer and prepare for future disasters.

The report has significant commonalities with recommendations featured in HSI's Safeguarding Australia's Wildlife analysis of the wildlife rescue response to the Black Summer bushfires, which is set to be released next week.

The wide-ranging Royal Commission report also included conservation recommendations, detailing the catastrophic impacts suffered by threatened species and habitats and the need to better integrate environment and heritage matters into emergency planning and response. It also highlighted the importance of having a comprehensive and up to date understanding of threatened species and habitat status to rapidly guide intervention and recovery efforts. 

HSI is responsible for initiating more than 40% of habitats currently recognised as nationally threatened through our Threatened Ecological Community nomination program, with these listings providing a solid information base to assess bushfire impacts on biodiversity and rapidly prioritise recovery efforts. Following the Black Summer fires, HSI has shifted the focus of our habitat protection efforts to bushfire impacted landscapes, particularly those unaccustomed to fire such as rainforests.

"The report shows how vital having up to date and comprehensive information on Australia's biodiversity is when responding to threats and prioritising recovery. But more Departmental funding is needed as their current capacity to assess the nominations we're submitting is far outpaced by the impacts these habitats are facing,” Mr Quartermain concluded.

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