SYDNEY – Australia is dropping tons of food from helicopters for animals starving as a result of the destruction of their habitat due to fires that have been swept through the country since September, a regional energy official said on Sunday in a statement.
New South Wales’ government has deployed helicopters the past week to drop more than two tons of carrots and sweet potatoes at different sites where Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, a marsupial native to southeastern Australia, lives. The drops have taken place in at least six different locations where the animals live.
“The provision of supplementary food is one of the key strategies we are deploying to promote the survival and recovery of endangered species like the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby,” New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean said in the statement.
Kean said the operation was the most widespread food distribution initiative dedicated to reaching Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies and that it would contribute toward maintaining their population, as well as to help their recovery. The government is also installing cameras to observe the animals’ food consumption.
“Initial fire assessments indicate the habitat of several important Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby populations was burnt in the recent bushfires. The wallabies typically survive the fire itself, but are then left stranded with limited natural food as the fire takes out the vegetation around their rocky habitat,” Kean said.
The statement said that the food drop campaign will be following by an intensive “feral predator control” to ensure the animals recover appropriately.
Since September, fires have ravaged more than 80,000 square kilometers – an area larger than Ireland – and left 26 people dead, besides an estimated one billion wild animals.
“When we can, we are also setting up cameras to monitor the uptake of the food and the number and variety of animals there,” Kean said.
The fires have released some 349 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past four months, according to the nonprofit Periodistas por el Planeta (Journalists for the Planet), compared to the 532 million tons of the country’s total annual emissions in all of 2018.