Blue Mountains conservationists develop app to prevent volunteers harming bushfire impacted animals and habitat

An app created to prevent kind-hearted bushfire volunteers harming the animals and habitat they’re striving to save is one step closer to development, thanks to nearly $300,000 from Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants.

Since the worst fires in history, Blue Mountains not-for-profit, Science For Wildlife has focused on a number of bushfire recovery activities including research to ensure effective native species replanting, rehabilitated release and community engagement in a bid to ensure the future of remaining numbers of koala, brush-tailed rock wallaby and greater gliders.

But according to Dr Kellie Leigh, CEO Science for Wildlife, with uptake for volunteering gone through the roof, coordinating Landcare and restoration work has been difficult to manage with some inadvertently harming the very animals they are trying to care for.

Recent examples in bushfire impacted regions include an ill-informed member of the community leaving out hundreds of sugary peanut butter oat balls onto a fireground in Victoria, potentially poisoning wallabies. While reports have suggested containers of water distributed in impacted zones led to small reptiles drowning, because containers had no access or egress points.

So the creation of the downloadable app, Wildlife Near Me which will allow volunteers in the Blue Mountains to work closely together and avoid helpful nature lovers from causing distress to injured animals, or injury to themselves.

But with $50,000 funding support from Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants, BirdLife Australia aims to educate and engage local schools, along with private landholders and community group volunteers in monitoring these birds, using BirdLife Australia’s mobile phone app, Birdata.

Koala Release – Credit Ian Brown

“In some situations, a lack of evidence-based information and coordination prevented conservation efforts from having maximum impact for wildlife, and in some cases put wildlife and people at risk. “

“To meet this need, we will create a collaborative information sharing system. Wildlife Near Me will drive stakeholder collaboration and information sharing for an informed, coordinated and effective approach to wildlife conservation, as well as increasing community participation in conservation activities and building local capacity. 

“The project includes two systematic wildlife survey projects, serving a dual purpose of providing pilot studies to test the effectiveness of the system, while also providing critical information on fire refugia and post-fire ecosystem function to guide wildlife recovery efforts.

Dr Leigh added: “While habitat restoration and wildlife population recovery actions are critical, resources are limited and efforts need to be strategic and informed by science in order to build ecosystem resilience. 

Koala release – Credit Ian Brown

“Restoration efforts will not necessarily be future proof nor benefit the species intended if they are not targeted to priority areas at an appropriate scale across land tenures.”

Funded by the Australian Government, the $14million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants are supporting 111 projects in regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020.