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'Catastrophic': Hazard reduction burn review after wildlife deaths

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

A hazard reduction burn is under review after kangaroos were discovered with horrific injuries three weeks after their forest was incinerated.

Four kangaroos were euthanised and three others are being monitored after fires were lit under the guidance of the Department of Conservation (DBCA) in a nature reserve at Perup, 300km south of Perth.

The kangaroos were assessed on April 13 and 14 after Yahoo News Australia was alerted to their plight, almost three weeks after the prescribed burn took place.

A hazard reduction burn is being reviewed after kangaroos were found severely burnt. Source: Darryn Ward / Bill Smart
A hazard reduction burn is being reviewed after kangaroos were found severely burnt. Source: Darryn Ward / Bill Smart

Local farmer Bill Smart discovered the animals taking refuge on his property, which borders state forest, and immediately euthanised one which was unable to stand.

Three others were shot after DBCA attended the scene two days later, and a further two are currently being monitored following assessment by a vet.

Concern for endangered numbats after government fire program

Mr Smart said he is also concerned that countless old-growth trees with hollows were destroyed in the fires and endangered numbat habitat, which was taped off by authorities, was also left scorched by the blaze.

Kangaroos were found with severe burns weeks after prescribed burns in Perup. Source: Bill Smart
Kangaroos were found with severe burns weeks after prescribed burns in Perup. Source: Bill Smart

His wife, Joan Smart, said the fire was “horrible to see” and as an Indigenous woman she noted the land is important to her and her children.

While her friends living outside the fire zone described the blaze as looking like an “atomic bomb”, she says living next to it was even more “devastating” due to the thick smoke. 

Nowhere for animals to go says wildlife carer

Local wildlife rescuer Derryn Ward witnessed the fires from her property three kilometres away and tried to catch two possums suffering from burns which she saw fleeing the flames. 

She said over the last 50 years burns methods have changed, becoming hotter and incinerating habitat trees. 

"It's just absolutely horrendous because it burnt so badly," she said. 

"They light up such huge areas now that there's nowhere for the animals to go.

"Once they'd light up one line and the animals could head out of it, but now they just light up a huge area, and the animals are surrounded and it's catastrophic." 

Western Australian authorities to review burn following kangaroo deaths

DBCA told Yahoo News Australia it is rare for it to receive reports of “highly mobile species” like kangaroos injured as a result of prescribed burns.

Forest at Perup was left scorched following prescribed burns authorised by the DBCA. Source: Bill Smart
Forest at Perup was left scorched following prescribed burns authorised by the DBCA. Source: Bill Smart

They said their methods favour low intensity fires which allow native species to “safely” move, and plants to regenerate.

A DBCA spokesman confirmed today that they will continue to monitor the surviving kangaroos and that the Perup hazard reduction burn is now under review.

“DBCA is currently reviewing how this prescribed burn was implemented to determine whether there were any contributing factors that may have led to these impacts and to ensure any learnings can be incorporated into future prescribed burning operations,” they said.

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