• Wiradjuri man and Indigenous ambassador for the Invasive Species Council is asking for an 'all-out attack' on feral animals. (Invasive Species Council)Source: Invasive Species Council
The Invasive Species Council holds grave concerns for native wildlife in bushfire-affected areas, asking state and federal governments to take immediate action.
By
Shahni Wellington

16 Jan 2020 - 4:39 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2020 - 4:39 PM

The Invasive Species Council is calling on state and federal governments to send immediate aid to native wildlife in fire zones scorched by this catastrophic bushfire season.

Scientists have estimated the recent fires have impacted over 800 million animals in New South Wales alone, with many species at risk of losing their habitat.

While the full extent of the damage to the environment is not yet known, the Invasive Species Council predicts it will only get worse for native plants and animals.

Wiradjuri man, volunteer firefighter and Indigenous Ambassador to the Council, Richard Swain, said time is of the essence to act.

"This is a wildlife emergency, and the biggest threat to our native species is invasive species. Whether you're 100 years old or 100 seconds old -- If you're in Australia, you've seen nothing but a decline in our natural world," Mr Swain said.

"When is enough, enough? We need a war on feral animals and now is the time to do it."

The council is calling for a three-part wildlife recovery program. The program would include control of feral cats and foxes, hard-hooved pest animals such as horses and pigs, and weed control -- particularly in urban and disturbed sites. 

CEO of the Invasive Species Council, Andrew Cox, explained that there is a likelihood that feral animals will virtually wipe out native wildlife.

"The feral animals are going to get the upper hand because they come from other countries; our native species haven't evolved to adapt to them.

"They're decimating the wildlife in normal times, but during these bushfires -- They get even a greater edge," Mr Cox said.

"So they certainly will decimate the native animals. They'll eat them, there'll be lots of suffering, and native animals need every hope they can get."

"At least hundreds of millions"

On Monday, the federal government announced an initial $50 million investment would go to protect wildlife and restore habitat in response to the bushfire crisis.

While the Threatened Species Commissioner will manage half of that money, Mr Cox says it won't be nearly enough, estimating 'at least hundreds of millions.'

"The scale of the needed effort is far, far bigger than we could imagine.

"It's certainly the right sort of investment, but it needs to be scaled up. And we also need all the affected state governments to invest just as heavily," Mr Cox said.

Traditional burning methods and fuel reduction to help prevent bushfires made headlines over the past few weeks. Richard Swain said Indigenous knowledge should also be harnessed in the approach to habitat restoration. 

"I believe the landscape has changed so much in the last 200 years that we cannot go forward without the best science available. It's a combination of blackfella knowledge and the latest science knowledge that will get us through the future," Mr Swain said.

"If we wish to call ourselves custodians, we need to be borrowing this landscape from our grandchildren, and we need to make our decisions accordingly."