Island's key native animals show distinct signs of recovery six months after summer fires

RESPONSIVE: Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary owner and founder Jim Geddes, in May this year, is among the many who have worked tirelessly over the past six months to assist the Island's wildlife and habitat recovery. Photo: Stan Gorton
RESPONSIVE: Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary owner and founder Jim Geddes, in May this year, is among the many who have worked tirelessly over the past six months to assist the Island's wildlife and habitat recovery. Photo: Stan Gorton

A number of key native animals on Kangaroo Island show "positive signs" of recovery six months after the devastating summer bushfires, the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) revealed this week.

On top of koala and kangaroo populations, wildlife includes the Island's endangered dunnart and glossy-black cockatoos species, Southern brown bandicoot and Green carpenter bee.

Despite nearly 90 per cent of the tiny dunnart habitat lost to fires, numerous animal numbers have since been detected.

Their sightings, via motion-sensing cameras, is heartening for the Island after fears habitat destruction would decimate the threatened nocturnal marsupial recorded numbers of between 300 and 500.

Yet six months on, DEW conservation and wildlife director Lisien Loan says the state, including the Island, has "a lot to be proud of" with its bushfire response efforts.

The wildlife and habitat recovery after the devastating bushfires has been a collaborative endeavour with all levels of government as well as local experts and non-government organisations delivering help in a coordinated way," she said.

She reiterated how the summer fires destroyed nearly 300,000 hectares of land across SA.

The worst hit was Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills, with blazes affecting thousands of native flora and fauna.

"The recovery was never going to happen overnight and will take both time and plenty of hard work but thankfully we are seeing some good results for our efforts," she said.

Ms Loan highlighted the response was shown by a partnership involving National Parks and Wildlife Service SA (NPWSSA) and the Kangaroo Island, Hills and Fleurieu landscapes boards.

Their actions to support native wildlife recovery - in partnership with other wildlife groups, conservation organisations and communities - include:

  • On-ground assessments and population counts
  • Digital citizen scientist program
  • Giving nature time and space
  • Feral animal control
  • Translocation of koalas to Cleland Wildlife Park
  • Plantings in bushfire zones
  • Establishing a Wildlife Recovery Fund
  • Creating a Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Taskforce
  • Developing a Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Plan

In addition, the endangered glossy-black cockatoos have also been spotted nesting in burnt out bushland on Kangaroo Island.

Other species sighted returning to bushfire-affected areas include the Southern brown bandicoot, Green carpenter bee, Western whipbird and Southern emu-wren.

Koala and kangaroo populations in the bushfire areas are also expected to recover as their habitat transforms.

Ms Loan said the Wildlife Recovery Fund will be used to support re-establishing habitat for wildlife in the state's bushfire-ravaged regions.

To date, the fund has raised more than $450,000, and will provide landholders and community groups with grants to deliver on-ground recovery action such as native plant regeneration, and feral animal and weed control.

"Most recovery actions, including wildlife monitoring and feral animal and weed control will continue until the bushland regenerates and can provide natural shelter and food for native animals," Ms Loan said.

"Focused effort has and will continue to support the recovery of many key native vertebrate and invertebrate animal, and plant species in South Australia.

"NPWSSA with our partners, including the local landscape boards, will continue to support the long-term recovery of South Australia's environment."