NEWS AND VIEWS: It is thought that a campfire started a wildfire on Fraser Island, 200 miles north of Brisbane, Australia, which is believed to have destroyed the island’s population of purebred dingoes. Another example of humankind’s carelessness in its relationship with nature. It is particularly ironic because the Australian government has been fighting a battle with the country’s feral cats for many years in the belief that they are destroying Australia’s native mammals and other wildlife. They are killing feral cats in anyway possible (often cruelly) but the truth of the matter is that the citizens of Australia both current and historic are the biggest cause of the destruction of the country’s wild animals and this story gives credence to that thought.
The fires on Fraser Island have been burning since last October. Dingoes are descended from Asian wolves and are famous as being connected to Australia’s outback in the eyes of many.
Fraser Island is popular with tourists. Half a million visit the island annually where there are 100 lakes and sand dunes together with 1000-year-old giant satinay trees. A lot of the north of the island has been burnt by the fire. Some wildlife has been able to escape the flames through a narrow land track from north to south.
A Safe Fraser Island spokesperson, Cheryl Bryant, was concerned as to how any remaining dingoes might survive bearing in mind the increased competition for much depleted food resources. She said that adult dingoes attack the young of invading packs and if that happens it may jeopardise their survival in the area.
The island is an important place for native wildlife as it is home to more than thirty mammal species including bandicoots, bats, wallabies and squirrel gliders. There are also sixty reptile species and seventeen types of frog living on the island.
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It is believed that a lot of animals will starve because they have lost their food sources, including insects which feed the birds, the echidnas and other small animals.
Firefighters have been criticised for not starting soon enough and apparently lacking sufficient effort and commitment to control the fire and put it out. It seems that the authorities did not predict that the fire would be this extensive. One resident, Steve Knight wanted more resources to be poured into extinguishing the fire.
For a month, Queenland’s National Park Service struggled with the fire when they handed over to the state fire service after the flames were out of control. It is believed that a key to mitigating the risk of large wildfires on the island is to burn off vegetation with frequent smaller fires as carried out by the Aboriginal inhabitants observed by Capt James Cook in 1770 when he sailed past the island in darkness.