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United Over a Shared Challenge


 This widespread barren region landscape of Australia’s Blue Mountains changed into catastrophically impacted with the aid of the 2019–2020 bushfires in Australia, additionally acknowledged to us as the “Black Summer” bushfires. The scale and intensity of the mega fires was remarkable. Through the tireless work of the Science for Wildlife group at some point of the wildfire crisis and for months later on, and with the assist of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), we discovered lots approximately the challenges we’ll ought to meet to make certain wildlife conservation is powerful below climate change. We additionally discovered simply how unprepared everybody become for a flora and fauna disaster of this scale.

The Australian wooded area is one of 8 hubs around the globe where SDZWA anchors our conservation paintings, and we had been a center associate with Science for Wildlife and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Koala Project because it started in 2014. The mission has been uncovering populations of koalas throughout the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, which have grew to become out to be of national importance for the conservation of the species. Koalas in the area have been bucking the general fashion of decline that is visible in koala populations in other regions of Australia—and rather, koala populations were developing. Because of our paintings inside the Blue Mountains, I was properly positioned to steer an high-quality team of people engaged in natural world emergency response efforts in early 2020—including the first emergency evacuation of koalas from drawing near fireplace.

After devastating wildfires, Dr. Kellie Leigh returns a rescued koala to the Blue Mountains. Photo via Ian Brown.

Radio collars permit Kellie’s team to display koalas within the Blue Mountains. Photo by using Ian Brown.

Over the final couple of years, we've got acquired growing reputation for our work. Due to our efforts and on-floor revel in, I were an invited expert witness at numerous state and federal government hearings and roundtables in Australia to increase guidelines on the way to put together for extra severe fire regimes under climate alternate. On June 24 this yr, I became asked to proportion our tale on an global panel featuring the awesome people who've been on the front strains combating fires in both Australia and California. Brought together by way of the Australian consulate in Los Angeles and hosted with the aid of California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, the panel labored to raise cognizance of wildfire troubles in both countries—uniting us over a shared assignment.  Sharing the screen with Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM (who we in Australia recognize so well, as he brought us via the firestorm closing 12 months) become a super honor. I felt extremely privileged to be the professional asked to speak on behalf of natural world and wild spaces. This latest panel become the best profile global panel I have been requested to enroll in, and I desire it will likely be a part of a bigger discussion between our two international locations and the sister states of NSW and California.

Traditionally, priorities for the duration of the fires were first human life and property and then natural world, and this became reiterated in the course of the panel dialogue. While nobody might argue in opposition to human lifestyles and belongings being the first precedence, in broader phrases beyond the bushfires, it's far our records of placing the surroundings as a decrease priority that has resulted in weather change—and the bushfires we're all facing—within the first region. We need to analyze from that lesson and exchange our commercial enterprise as usual. The query is one among committing sufficient resources, so that it doesn’t should be a desire between human beings and wildlife. Both are connected, and as a species, we need biodiversity and ecosystem processes to survive and thrive. A high-quality outcome from the bushfires is a shared cognizance of that want. Through shared experience, NSW and California can paintings together to create alternate.

Dr. Kellie Leigh is Executive Director/CEO with Science for Wildlife and a San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance conservationist. She is pictured at left inside the image at the pinnacle of this page, along side SDZWA natural world care specialist Candis Malcom.

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