The government of New South Wales is getting ready to drop from the air thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potatoes for the endangered and stressed critters.
“The wallabies were already under stress from the ongoing drought, making survival challenging” without help, said NSW environment minister Matt Kean in a statement Sunday.
The aerial food drops are expected to help the survival of endangered species like the wallabies amid the larger wildlife recovery efforts underway across the state in the aftermath of bushfires.
Photos posted recently on Kean’s Twitter account show carrots toppling out of a box high above the land.
According to an initial assessment, the fires have destroyed the living space of “several important brush-tailed rock-wallaby populations,” Kean said.
“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.”
The aerial food drop announced Sunday is the largest one yet for the wallabies, Kean said.
The state is also installing cameras to monitor food intake and the variety of animals benefiting from the operation, he added.
The brush-tailed rock-wallaby is considered an endangered species in New South Wales. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List last assessed its status in 2014, listing the wallaby as vulnerable, with an estimated 20,000 existing in the wild.
Australia has endured months of bushfires that have left more than two dozen people dead and razed land roughly equivalent to the size of South Korea.
The fires, according to a revised estimate by University of Sydney ecologist Chris Dickman, have left more than a billion animals dead.
“We know that Australian biodiversity has been going down over the last several decades, and it’s probably fairly well known that Australia’s got the world’s highest rate of extinction for mammals,” Dickman said in an interview with NPR last week.
“It’s events like this that may well hasten the extinction process for a range of other species, so it’s a very sad time.”
Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called up 3,000 army reservists to aid state emergency workers, and also announced a A$2 billion (CA$1.8 billion) bushfire recovery fund. Canada has sent firefighters to help in the efforts, as well.
The state of South Australia said Sunday that more than 32,000 livestock animals, mostly sheep, had died in recent fires on Kangaroo Island, while fire services are working to strengthen containment lines ahead of expected worsening weather conditions on Monday.
— With files by Reuters