IN THE NEWS: Victoria's native wildlife at risk of starving to death unless government drops food, vets say

IN THE NEWS: On JAN 18, 2020

The Australian Veterinary Association is desperately calling on the Victorian Government to airdrop food into inaccessible, bushfire-affected land in Victoria to save starving wildlife.

Key points:

  • An estimated billion animals have died in the eastern Australian bushfires
  • Animal rights groups have said without airdrops of food, Victorian wildlife will starve to death in weeks
  • Last week, the NSW Government dropped thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potatoes into valleys and national parks to feed endangered wildlife

The association's state president and wildlife vet David Middleton said native animals were beginning to starve "on a large scale" and that strategic fodder drops in targeted areas were necessary to avoid large-scale deaths over the coming weeks.

Animals Australia director Lyn White said some species in fire-affected areas were critically endangered such as the mountain pygmy-possum and brush-tailed rock-wallaby found in Gippsland.

The charity offered $100,000 to the Victorian Government last week to help purchase food, but said they have not received a response to the offer.

Ms White said according to Emergency Management Victoria, about 1.35 million hectares had been burnt – most of it home to wildlife.

"This is an unprecedented situation which requires unique and innovative solutions," she said.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said the Government was taking expert advice to get the best outcome for native wildlife and biodiversity.

"We're considering supplementary feeding for threatened species in targeted areas if and when it's appropriate and safe to do so," she said.

According to Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning guidelines on its website, feeding wildlife is not recommended because it can make wildlife dependent on people for food and stop them dispersing away from fire-affected areas.

It can also create weed problems from unsterilised feed, attract predators and pests, and could favour aggressive species, disadvantaging more threatened species.

Last week, thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potatoes were dropped out of helicopters into valleys and national parks in NSW to feed endangered brush-tailed rock-wallabies.

Victorian Opposition environment spokesman David Morris said aerial food drops for fire-affected wildlife was "a matter of priority".

"Aerial food drops began over a week ago in New South Wales; it's time that the Andrews Labor Government acts to ensure animals aren't forced to starve to death," Mr Morris said.

Ms White said crews from Animals Australia were able to land in Mallacoota and distribute food on foot and by car, but they were unable to land in most other fire-affected areas throughout the Gippsland and Alpine region.

"Parks Victoria have the knowledge of where watering holes are which is where any surviving wildlife would be congregating, enabling targeted aerial food drops," she said.

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