The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia has welcomed the Federal Government announcement of $50 million to protect and support wildlife affected by the bushfire crisis, but warned the funding will not meet the recovery needs of Australia’s threatened species.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley revealed the Australian Government's initial investment in wildlife and habitat recovery today during a visit to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
WWF-Australia CEO, Dermot O’Gorman said the announcement was an important first step and stressed the government would need to go further amid fears the fires may have tipped some species to the brink of extinction.
“The impact of these bushfires on people and nature is unprecedented and the recovery and restoration work ahead is immense. It is critical that state and federal governments, environmental organisations, community groups and volunteers come together to restore what has been lost,” said Mr O’Gorman.
“We thank the Australian Government for their commitment to wildlife response today. This support will provide a great start to help all our combined effort to respond to wildlife in need, restore critical habitat and deliver long-term conservation solutions. However significantly more funding will be required to help our threatened species recover.
“Today’s announcement allocates just 2.5% of the $2 billion committed by our Prime Minister for bushfire response to the restoration of our wildlife and wild places. Our country will need a much larger wildlife and nature recovery funding commitment.
“While the tragedy is still unfolding, the actions taken now will determine the ability of Australian communities and our environment to recover. The need for rapid response is urgent. Equally important are decisions that plan for the long-term restoration of our environment to ensure our forests heal, our threatened species recover and our climate stabilises.”
WWF-Australia estimates more than 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires that have burnt over 10 million hectares across Australia.
This heart-breaking loss includes thousands of precious koalas on the mid-north coast of NSW. Other critically endangered species have had all or key parts of their habitat burned, including the southern corroboree frog, regent honeyeater and Kangaroo Island dunnart.
WWF-Australia has called for global support to establish a WWF $30 million Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund to respond to affected wildlife and mobilise interventions that protect and restore habitats.
“We will continue to collaborate with the Australian Government to ensure the massive response required is swiftly executed, science-based and funds impactful response, protection and restoration interventions while ensuring there is critical guidance from traditional owner groups,” said Mr O’Gorman.
“WWF-Australia is partnering with wildlife rescue and care organisations in fire-affected states and directing funds so they can respond at scale. We have committed almost $1 million for immediate wildlife rescue, care and recovery and that’s just the beginning.
“Over the coming weeks WWF will deliver emergency response to our conservation field partners within fire-affected areas, directing our funds to critical areas as capacity is secured.”
The WWF fund will also help to deliver habitat restoration for people and nature, including restoring forests and damaged wildlife habitat, and support innovative solutions to help mitigate climate change, drive climate preparedness and species adaptation.
“This is a disaster of global significance and we have been touched by the generosity of so many of our supporters and partners in Australia and around the world. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to restore what has been lost in a time of climate emergency,” said Mr O’Gorman.
Learn more about WWF’s Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund.