This is a warning for any birders thinking of travelling to the Top End.
According to the ABC (4 July) fireworks started 679 wildfires on Territory
Day, July 1st. One of those fires in the rural area killed many pet animals
including black cockatoos and a crocodile, destroyed a home, and threatened
lives. These fires were fuelled by gamba grass and exacerbated by higher than
usual maximum temperatures, strong winds, and low humidity.
The Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, says there are no plans to move Territory
Day from the Dry Season. Yet, this year wildfires serious enough to reach into
forest canopy 20 m. high occurred as early as the late Wet Season. By July the
Top End was a tinder box. Given increasing maximum temperatures and the
continuing spread of gamba grass I consider his decision to be irresponsible.
At the very least it demonstrates little care for those at risk, and that
Many good birding spots are now infested with gamba grass. Please stay away
from them throughout the Dry Season. Gamba-fuelled fires can reach tens of
metres in height, and they are very hot. They also move very fast,
particularly in areas where there are few trees. The pet animals that died may
well have been killed by radiant heat (the owner had cleared a large area
around his aviary). Also, you may pick up some of the very fine gamba grass
seed in your clothes or on your vehicle. Rangers and landholders have already
identified this as a source of spread.
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow Ph.D., B.A., Grad. Dip.
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841
043 8650 835
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