We answer your questions on Kangaroo Island and other South Australian bushfire recovery





Updated

January 31, 2020 11:03:23

As Australia turns its focus on recovery after devastating bushfires, some are wondering whether there have been delays in getting help to places like Kangaroo Island.

Key points

  • Food drops for wildlife on KI are commencing
  • 2,000 bales of hay have been donated to farmers across the Adelaide Hills and KI
  • The SA Government has contributed more than $100,000 to transport fodder

The ABC has put the call-out for your questions on Australia’s bushfires and the recovery process.

We took a look at three questions on South Australia’s response.

Nat asked: Is the South Australian Government sending food drops to Kangaroo Island/Adelaide Hills starving wildlife that survived the bushfires?

The SA Government has announced its plan to drop food to vulnerable and starving wildlife impacted by the deadly Ravine fire on Kangaroo Island.

While food drops for animals began in New South Wales weeks ago, Kangaroo Island food drops are just beginning.

And it’s because the fire was only contained last week after burning for a month.

Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said land and air drops would be coordinated for the next three months.

“The food drops are a short-term measure until the burnt environment regenerates naturally and grasses grow to provide food for many surviving animals,” Mr Speirs said.

“However, the feeding of wildlife needs to be done carefully and sensitively to avoid unintended outcomes, especially on Kangaroo Island where we need to be mindful of what is brought onto the island.

“The food drops are targeted for native animals who have lost their habitat. This is similar to food drops being carried out interstate in Victoria and New South Wales.

“The land-based food drops are already underway and a plane will begin dropping food for the native animals from next week and will be able to carry around 150 kilograms of food at a time.”

Experts are being engaged to see what can be done to feed endangered animals on the island like the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

However, dropping food in the Adelaide Hills is a different story.

The Government said native animals would be able to find food sources that have not been burnt in the Adelaide Hills, making food drops unnecessary.

Chris asked: Farmers on Kangaroo Island are apparently desperate for food for livestock. What’s being done to help them? Why is money not getting to them?

More than 2,000 bales of hay have been donated to farmers affected by the recent bushfires on KI and in the Adelaide Hills.

The State Government said hay donations continue to come from across South Australia, in addition to money being collected from a number of bushfire relief funds.

Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said the main challenge was getting the hay to KI — a process which was being managed in conjunction with Livestock SA.

“Recognising the importance of getting hay to farmers on Kangaroo Island as quickly as possible, we are providing $120,000 to pay the cost of transporting donated fodder on the ferry from the drop-off point at Cape Jervis to Penneshaw,” Mr Whetstone said.

“The Oakbank fodder drop in the Adelaide Hills has now closed with more than 1,000 tonnes distributed, and fodder supplies are still continuing to Kangaroo Island with more than 600 tonnes, or 33 truckloads, going direct to the farm gate.”

Livestock SA CEO, Andrew Curtis, said donations from the public were greatly appreciated.

“Members of the public remain welcome to donate fodder or volunteer to help transport and off-load deliveries at the Cape Jervis depot,” he said.

“We are also still on the lookout for people who can provide agistment for livestock from the fire-affected areas.”

Sheena asked: Can ministers in SA be asked to negotiate to ensure some Kangaroo Island koalas be transferred to mainland NSW and Vic to repopulate/save species?

Relocating Kangaroo Island koalas to NSW is problematic for a number of reasons.

Despite being free of chlamydia and koala retrovirus, they suffer from a lack of genetic diversity after breeding from an introduced population of just 18 in the 1920s.

Many suffer from testicular aplasia and have just one testicle, and they are also susceptible to oxalate nephrosis, which can cause kidney damage, dehydration and death.

Genetic problems aside, KI koalas are significantly larger than the koalas of northern NSW and Qld, have a different fur consistency and smaller ears.

This is important because their northern counterparts dissipate heat through their larger ears and are better equipped for subtropical zones.

“Kangaroo Island koalas are not well-adapted to other areas and they have low genetic diversity,” Associate Professor Mathew Crowther from the University of Sydney warned.

“There are many reasons why you wouldn’t use them to supplement mainland populations.”

Despite the issues, however, a new colony of koalas orphaned by KI bushfires has been established in the Adelaide Hills.

It is hoped the disease-free koalas can be used to rewild declining stocks and have their genetic make-up improved through cross breeding.

Cleland Wildlife Park director Chris Daniels said testicular aplasia in SA koalas had not affected their ability to breed.

“I’m not sure exactly about the proportion of them having one testicle, but let me assure you that testicle works,” he said.

“It’s interesting in that, just because they are genetically bottlenecked, in the sense they’re very similar because they came from few individuals, it does not mean they are not able to reproduce and establish sustainable populations.

“We’ve seen this now with quite a lot of animals that have come down to a few hundred, such as species of birds for example, cheetahs, some types of rhino.”

Topics:

disasters-and-accidents,

fires,

bushfire,

animals,

animal-welfare,

government-and-politics,

local-government,

adelaide-5000,

penneshaw-5222,

kingscote-5223,

woodside-5244,

lobethal-5241,

sa

First posted

January 31, 2020 06:35:45



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