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"The reality is the loss is catastrophic and I guess without dwelling on that we can't bring back what's burnt," Aussie Ark's Tim Faulkner on the loss of animals in bushfires and drought


Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner says "the loss is catastrophic" not only from the recent bushfires that have ripped through New South Wales, but also from the ongoing drought.

Recently Aussie Ark staff have made some sad discoveries about the silent victims of the crisis, and it includes some of the most common animals.

Tim Faulkner has been visiting areas that have been affected and discovered the platypus population has suffered a serious blow. 

"The reality is the loss is catastrophic and I guess without dwelling on that we can't bring back what's burnt, and we can't bring back those that have died, what we can do is rebuild and look forward."

"If we come to our region, there are significant parts that aren't fire-affected yet, they're at imminent risk but the drought alone and the impact that livestock has had on the paddock waiting for rain that didn't come, the paddocks are bald and the stress marks on the trees... the trees have cracks in them an inch think, to their core, they're dying," said Tim Faulkner.

In this region, there are two endemic species of turtle that aren't found anywhere else, and the drought is drying up their habitats. 

"In those rivers and nowhere else on earth, there are two species of turtle, freshwater aquatic turtles - one is found in the Upper Hunter River up around Moonan called the Hunter River Turtle, it's found in the Upper Hunter and then also out towards Goulburn River in really isolated populations."

"Their river is dry, it's been dry for maybe six months and the pools have reduced to some of them, the size of cars, there are 100 turtles in there."

"On the other side of the range if you go out to the Manning Catchment you've got the Manning River Turtle. Just last week I was out there with government officials and we rescued and relocated about 30 turtles, we brought in our first three for insurance. But these two species have been in these rivers, nowhere else on earth for 80 million years," he said. 

"If we just rewind a year, both these turtles were already endangered, the drought and the fires have exacerbated that."

"What's happened with these fires and this drought is unprecedented, it's the commoner species or the species that a lot of people weren't even looking at - koalas were already topical and already on a trajection of extinction - these fires have hit from Brisbane to Tasmania lets say, and that section of the Great Dividing Range we're talking platypus, koalas, tiger quolls, these species that were still in strife but not critical and it's pushed them to the brink."

"Rain will fix much of the problem, but it won't fix it all," Tim said. 

Aussie Ark is working to help some of the species by continuing what they had already started with insurance populations of species.

Tim said they have three ways that they do things at the Ark, first through species management working with an individual species, species recovery such as Aussie Ark where several species call the Barrington Tops home and then habitat recovery. 

A Native Wildlife State of Emergency was called into action by Tim and his team, and he and his staff have been out assessing the situation seeing firsthand the devastation.

"I'm good, the reality is that if we were doing nothing I wouldn't be good... we go out and find a bunch of dead turtles and it hurts it really does but you can't dwell on it, it is what it is, I didn't do it," said Tim.

"This morning I was out tracking down animals that we've released into sanctuaries to check on their weight and their health, I had my kids up on the weekend and we moved a bunch of turtles, so there's good in it and there's community spirit like talking with Neil at the Moonan Pub about his beloved platypus and turtles and if they're alright so there's enough for me to be very distracted with the good."

"It is upsetting but the reality is we've got a job to do and I'm sure the entire community feels like that so we look to the future."

Image credit: Aussie Ark