This month’s guest blog has been written by local guide Becky Prime. It is about the Kangaroo Island bush fire regeneration process. Becky is a nature guide at Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours.

When did the KI fires start?

Along with many parts of Australia, Kangaroo Island faced devastating bushfires last summer (Dec 2019 until Feb 2020). This wreaked havoc across our stunningly beautiful landscapes. Almost half of the island was burnt in a series of catastrophic fire days. We have become accustomed to the black landscape and ash-covered surroundings. However these days, we also see green! The trees are sprouting new shoots – the regeneration has begun. Amidst the black is a vibrant green making its way back, proving that mother nature is indeed a powerful force. 

The bush recovery is on its way just after a few month after the fires.

Kangaroo Island Plants are back

Our beautiful yakka’s (Xanthorrhoea) are in their most stunning form. These beauties thrive on fire, therefore the flowering is actually stimulated by bushfire. Nearly everywhere you go, there are incredible specimens of Yakka standing proud in the thinned out vegetation. Some of them have sprouted up to 36 flowers. These flowers, are part of a long spike shooting above the main section and can be up to 4 metres long! They have almost become an icon for the recovery of our bushfire zone. In fact, locals actually hold competitions as to who has found a yakka with the most flowers. View more detail on South Australia Wildlife Service.

See the difference between pre- and post bush fires

Kangaroo Island Birds are back

The birds have come back. In the weeks following the bushfires there was an eerie silence in the bush. The absence of birds is not something we are used to on our wildlife rich island. This was one of the most noted aspects of life after bushfires. Slowly but surely they have come back into all areas across the island. In particular, I have seen an incredible range of birds on my own back door step. These include Golden Whistlers, Blue Rhens, Lorikeets, Rosellas, Pardolottes, Finches, Magpies, Ravens. Thankfully, the rare Glossy Black Cockatoos have survived. These birds have gone through one of the toughest times in their lives. If they have made it this far (into winter), then they have a greater chance of going the full distance. 

Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo

The Glossy Black Cockatoo has been of particular concern after the bushfires, as a large portion of their habitat was wiped out. They are already an endangered species, however the signs are promising. On the north west coast of the island tiny pockets of their only food source survived the devastating fires. These pockets are little windows of hope. We had more exciting news this month with the confirmation of 23 hatched chicks this breeding season, post fires! Many Islanders, including myself, have been busy planting hundreds of Sheoaks (their food source). We are hopeful that this will encourage their species to thrive into the future with plenty of habitat to feed on. The Glossies have come a long way in the past and we will ensure they do it again. 

Endangered Kangaroo Island Dunnart

The critically endangered Kangaroo Island Dunnart has suffered the biggest blow. It will take a very long time to get these guys up and going again. The very survival of this species is on the brink. Luckily for them they have the team at KI Land for Wildlife looking out for them. But there are a few promising signs. A small area of their woodland habitat was spared on the north west coast of KI. Wildlife cameras picked up footage of the Dunnarts foraging in this tiny patch of vegetation.

Stunning regrowth after the Kangaroo Island bush fires.

The KILW team were straight on it and managed to secure funding to completely fence and cat-proof this area. This will give the Dunnarts a better chance of survival from Feral Cats, their greatest enemy. As the bush regenerates, the team are also constructing shelter tunnels to provide extra protection for the cute little marsupials outside of the fenced zone. Amazing people are doing incredible things for this species on our island and it is fabulous to see. 

kangaroo island seal bay reserve
Kangaroo Island Seal Bay Reserve

Recovery ongoing on Kangaroo Island

It was so wonderful to see businesses reopening as the island recovered from the fire, But then Covid 19 snuck up on our little island home. At the time, we were so busy cleaning up and helping others after the fires, that we didn’t notice the global pandemic heading our way. Many businesses were just starting to get back on their feet after losing their peak season income when the pandemic hit. The campaign #bookthemout had sent many wonderful people our way, doing their bit to help us recover. But in a matter of weeks they were all sent away again. We were left to pick up the pieces on our own. So to see these incredible local businesses standing up after another hit, is inspiring. The regeneration of our island includes the financial and mental health of its people. So to all you wonderful travellers out there, book your tickets and come and see us as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed. 

As the island slowly greens up and the animals move back into the regenerating vegetation, let us not forget about the people of this wild home in the sea. Islanders have been shaken to our core, seen our homes destroyed and our ecosystems obliterated. We have witnessed things this summer that we never want to see again. The community has done things that we never want to do again. We have been stripped back to our raw selves as many of us have lost everything that ever existed around us. Locals have also banded together like never before. We have spread love and healing to every corner of our precious island home. However, we need more love and more healing. 

Mother Nature comes back on Kangaroo Island.

Smiling Faces on Kangaroo Island

Our regeneration includes seeing happy people enjoying our wild places, just as they did before the fires. We want to see children from the city crying out in delight as they spot a dolphin surfing our magnificent beach breaks. Also, we want to see adults laughing with joy as they watch the Sea Lions flop in from a three day stint in the ocean. Plus, see teens racing down the sand hills at Little Sahara on a sandboard and cheering as they finally make the whole slope. We want to see people buying coffee and enjoying a meal from our beautiful little cafes which are dotted around the island. We need to witness your joy in our island home – to help us see the joy too. This will encourage us to keep going and bring us hope. Hope is what we need most in the regeneration of this unique island paradise. 

Exploring Kangaroo Island with a local guide
Memorable days on Kangaroo Island prior the the bush fires. It’s truly a special place!

Summary on where to go from here…

So come to the wild island! Join a day tour, book some beautiful accommodation, dine out – bring us your enthusiasm for nature. Our wildlife is most active in the winter time, our fields are green and our people are slowly recovering. Your presence is a boost to our souls and a ray of hope for our future. We can’t wait to see you. 

koala in tree on kangaroo island
Koala resting after a hard days work…

Here are some more travel hints for planning your trip:

Happy travelling to Kangaroo Island!

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