Australia Drops Food to Hungry Wallabies

CC BY-SA 4.0. Andrew Jenssen

Thousands of kilos of vegetables will hopefully prevent starvation in burned-out regions.

The Australian bushfires have been devastating to wildlife, killing an estimated half-billion wild animals and countless more bats, insects, frogs, and domestic pets. Some suggest the death toll is as high as one billion. Even when the flames die down, the risk remains because many animals may be vulnerable to predators or short on food.

In response, the New South Wales government has arranged for food drops to remote areas to help stave off animal hunger. Their current target is populations of endangered Brush-tailed rock wallabies, which typically survive fires but "are then left stranded with limited natural food as the fire takes out the vegetation around their rocky habitat." Thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potatoes have been tossed out of planes in recent days to supplement their food supply.

Matt Kean, NSW Minister for Energy & Environment, said in a statement about Operation Rock Wallaby:

"At this stage, we expect to continue providing supplementary food to rock-wallaby populations until sufficient natural food resources and water become available again in the landscape, during post-fire recovery. When we can, we are also setting up cameras to monitor the uptake of the food and the number and variety of animals there."

Wallabies are related to kangaroos but smaller, and they typically live in rocky terrain near water. Most species of wallaby are threatened and two are endangered, including rock wallabies. Rock wallabies are described as similar to mountain goats, as they "specialize in rugged terrain and have modified feet adapted to grip rock with skin friction rather than dig into soil with large claws" (via Wikipedia).

It's good to see the government taking action to mitigate the suffering of these animals, but it is also important to remember that these are Band-Aid solutions to a much bigger problem that the Ministry of Energy & Environment would do well to admit and address. There's a reason why Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval rating has plummeted in recent weeks, and food drops aren't enough to fix that.